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They're here and they're happy (2 photos)

Syrian refugee family arrives in Sault Ste. Marie to begin new life

A Syrian refugee family is safe and sound and looking forward to settling in to a new home and new life in Sault Ste. Marie.

The family, which fled war-torn Syria and spent time in a Lebanese refugee camp, arrived at the Sault Ste. Marie Airport Thursday, greeted by Sault MP Terry Sheehan and an enthusiastic group of supporters who helped bring the family to Canada.

Willowgrove United Church, which got the ball rolling in bringing the family here, has been financially assisted in its efforts by the United Church Algoma Presbytery (consisting of 20 United Church congregations), with resettlement advice and guidance coming from Sault Community Career Centre.

The church's efforts were independent of the federal government's

Syrian refugee resettlement program, said Jeri Pearce, a Willowgrove United Church refugee sponsorship committee member, speaking to SooToday Friday afternoon.

The family knew they were coming to Canada in April.

After a long wait, "they finally came and we're really, really thrilled to have them," Pearce said.

The family, its identity withheld for the time being, is now living in a home in the city's east end, all of its basic needs met through United Church sponsorship. 

The family consists of a father and mother, both in their 30s, an eight-year-old boy and an infant daughter. 

"They were very nervous because they've come from a war-torn area…(but) they're healthy-looking and super happy to be here in Canada," Pearce said.

"The little boy was just so happy when he came in and saw his room and his toys and it was just so moving for us to see that." 

"The Sault Community Career Centre is helping us immensely, the government is providing tutors because the family can't speak English at all, we have lots of committees like medical committees helping us, the Career Centre is guiding us and it's wonderful."

"With help from the Career Centre, we bring food in that they know the family will like."

"We have a nice town, people are so generous," Pearce said, adding people inside and outside the United Church have helped gather furniture for the family, and there has been talk of providing the family with bicycles and fitness club memberships.

The cost of providing shelter, food, clothing and other essentials for the family, paid for by Willowgrove United Church and the Algoma Presbytery, is at least $30,000.

That support lasts for one year under the refugee sponsorship program.

After that, the father of the family will need employment.

"We'll make sure he has a job once he can speak English, that's part of our job…he was in construction, so we'll get him a job," Pearce said.

"It's the most wonderful feeling in the world (to help this family)."