Helping Syrian refugees find their way in a new world
Diddy Evans (centre) felt powerless as she watched the horrors of the war in Syria unfold.
“Then I found an opportunity to do something for people who have endured so much,” she says, explaining why she volunteers with a group helping Syrian refugee families in Summerland.
In spring 2016, the Summerland Refugee Sponsorship Group welcomed the Al Abdulrahman and Al Sheblaqe families, bringing the number of Syrian families in the town to three. e local United Church sponsored the Al Betar family in 2015. Evans is part of the team helping Adnan and Hadya Al Abdulrahman, their sons, Mohammad, Aboud and Jawad, aged 10, 7 and 19 months respectively, and daughter, 5-year-old Bisan.
“I’m only one of many local volunteers and of hundreds across the country,” Evans says. A retired school teacher, she has been assisting the family with English, especially Mohammad, now in Grade 4. “I’ve been reading with him. He missed a lot of school before arriving here,” Evans says. “All of the children are soaking up English like sponges.”
Originally from Dara in Southern Syria, the Al Abdulrahmans were in a refugee camp before spending a couple of years in Jordan.
While in Jordan, Adnan used his expertise in computer engineering to service various electronic devices.
Evans has some insight into the challenges presented by learning to live in another language. Following a stint of teaching in a one room school house at the Douglas Lake Ranch, Evans took her two sons, Matthew and Michael, to Quebec City.
“I did a year of French immersion at Laval University and the boys attended public school,” she says. Upon returning to BC, she taught French in the lower grades.
The sponsorship’s team of 10 members has helped the Al Abdulrahmans in a myriad of ways, including nding and setting up their home, locating a doctor and teaching them about the Canadian banking system.
The need for transportation is considerably less now that the family has a car.
A favourite destination is the world food section in Penticton’s Super Store. “We’re helping Hadya practice driving,” Evans says.
Evans also goes swimming with the children most Fridays and provides childcare when Hadya is away and Adnan at work.
“The Bad Robot, a Summerland computer and electronics store, hired Adnan to open a repair section of the business,” Evans says.
In March, the Al Abdulrahmans, friends and volunteers gathered for a potluck dinner at the Summerland Waterfront Resort to celebrate the family’s rst year in Canada.
“Becoming friends with the other volunteers and with people from a completely dierent part of the world is my reward,” Evans says. And sometimes friends become family. “My sons—neither of whom have children—tell me the Al Abdulrahman children are my grandchildren. I don’t disagree.”