Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Syrian Refugee Family Hosts Community Dinner in Celebration of One Year in Meaford

T.S. Giilck

0221syrian celebration 270While one group of Syrian refugees celebrated a milestone anniversary, the saga is just beginning for another.

Rajab and Hanan al Sheayer marked the date of their arrival in Meaford by serving up a traditional dinner to approximately 80 people at the Anglican Church on Sunday evening.

The couple, along with their four children, have fit in well since making Meaford at least a temporary home in 2016. For the last seven months, they have been operating a growing catering business serving traditional Syrian dishes. Raj-Han Catering became a regular sight at the Meaford Farmer’s Market last summer, as well as the Owen Sound market, and is looking at expanding its operations.

Both Rajab and Hanan are continuing to work on their English as well. They were able to put their new English skills to the test by answering some questions on Sunday. Hanan did most of the talking as Rajab scurried around the kitchen at the church.

Rajab, a welder by trade, is also working on earning his certification to work in his profession here in Canada, said Barbara Little, one of the committee members who helped bring the family to Canada last year. Little explained how Rajab has been writing certification tests along with students at Georgian College over the last several months, and should finish sometime this year. “They’ve been doing quite well,” she said. The couple has been considering opening a storefront location for their catering business, but are unsure if it’s a viable idea as yet.

The family’s success so far is an important one, since refugee immigrants are eligible to be supported for just one year after arrival. Now, plans are being laid to bring Hanan’s sister and family to Canada and Meaford as well. That process is likely to take as much as two years, but between $16,000 and $20,000 must be raised by the end of March.

A second organizing committee has been struck to handle that process, Theresa McDiarmid said. “We put out our first appeal in December,” she said. “We’re in the process of filling out the application forms. It was very difficult for Rajab and Hanan to choose which family (among their relatives) to bring over next. We hope to get our application in next month.”

As with the al Sheayers, this would be a private sponsorship, McDiarmid explained, under the Huron Diocese. It’s one of 7,500 such applications allotted for Syrian refugees under the diocese. “It’s a bit more work this time, since last time it was a combined government and private sponsorship, and that’s not happening this time.”

A total of $32,000 is required for the application, although the committee would like to raise as much as $50,000, to better serve the needs of the family. Of that total, $16,000 has already been raised.

Photo: Hanan al Sheayer prepares a traditional Syrian salad for a community dinner Sunday at Christ Church Anglican in Meaford. Photo: T.S. Giilck

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