Syrian family bound for Merritt arrives in B.C.

By on October 22, 2017
The Bazaz family as they arrived in Kelowna. (Photo contributed).


After a long, exhausting flight the Bazaz family walked through the gate at the Kelowna International Airport on Tuesday night (Oct. 17) ready to start their new life in Merritt.

The Syrian refugee family will soon be Merritt residents thanks to a community effort spearheaded by the local rotary club.

Abdulrahman Bazaz, his wife Rayah and their two young children — three-year-old Fahad and one-year-old Shahad were greeted by about 20 Merrittonians when their plane arrived right on schedule.

They will spend some time in West Kelowna with Abdulrahman’s sister, who he hasn’t seen in person in almost five years, before moving into a home in Merritt next week.

“I find myself being very emotional about it, because it’s been work [but] we’ve pulled it together, and now it’s finally happening,” said Rotarian  Jacqueline Whitecross who was among the locals who greeted the family.

Getting the family to Merritt has been an ongoing process for nearly two years.

The Merritt Refugee Group, lead by local rotary club members, brought the Bazaz family to Merritt through the Family Links Initiative, a government-administered program which matches refugees seeking asylum with family members who already reside in Canada.

The family was linked with the Merritt group back in 2016 and their application for residency in Canada was finally processed this summer.

Abdulrahman and Rayah have lived in a refugee camp in Jordan, where their young children were born, for about three years, having fled the ongoing civil war in Syria.

“They had to get out of their city and their country,” she said. “They didn’t want to, but the felt they had no choice if they wanted to survive.”

Whitecross said it’s an honour to be able to provide the family of four with a new life.

“They’ve been traumatized [during] their young lives … and to have them come and start a new life in our city is very special,” said Whitecross.

She said the group is currently in the process of helping Abdulrahman secure employment and preparing the home for the family’s arrival.

Neither Abdulrahman, 32, or Rayah, 28, speak english, but locals have volunteered to teach them. She said some people have also volunteered to take the family shopping or just show them around the community.

Whitecross said they have been communicating through Abdulrahman’s family who do speak English, but he is eager to learn and is thrilled to finally be in Canada.

Anyone who wants to help support the family can contact the Merritt Refugee Group.

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