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C M Y K Imagine you are a refugee fleeing your war-torn country. What would you do? Where would you go? F or Silava Seyhmus and her brother Guevara Shekhmos, their cousins Riwas Kahil and her husband Jwan Ali, plus their two daughters Shler, 5, and Sana, 3, the answers were flee and Canada. Last June, the two families stepped off a plane in Winnipeg, greeted by a crowd of enthusiastic Manitobans whom they'd never met. Manitobans who, through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), sponsored them as refugees to migrate to Canada. "We were so tired but we saw so many people smiling and saying hello," Shekhmos recalled. The small crowd at the airport were volunteers from Douglas Mennonite Church. Caring people and families who had rallied their community to help the two families find safety in Canada. Their welcome to Winnipeg stood in stark contrast to the past several years. The two families hail from the Kurdish region of Syria. Seyhmus lived in the northern city of Haseke and worked as an English teacher for 20 years before she was forced to flee. "I left Syria because ISIS attacked our region twice and Al Qaeda attacked us once. Our country divided into many forces fighting each other," she explained. "A lot of terrorists came into our country and destroyed the economy and the education system." Seyhmus and Shekhmos fled to Turkey by crossing the border about 5 years ago. Kahil and Ali followed their cousins to Turkey in 2016 when fighting and bombing made living in Damascus untenable. The couple had a baby girl and another one on the way, so leaving was their only option. "The most important thing was our child, her future, so we left Syria," Ali said. Welcomed with open arms Two years after fleeing to Turkey, unrest in the Middle East forced the two families to flee once again. They began preparations to come to Canada, seeking sponsorship as refugees. In Winnipeg, volunteers began preparations as well. They sought housing and gathered furniture for Ali and Kahil's new home. Seyhmus and Shekhmos were able to stay with family in the city until they found their own apartment a few months later. Adam Robinson, the associate pastor who has chaired the sponsorship committee at Douglas Mennonite Church for the last three years, said it was a way of showing care for the families. "It's a tangible way of expressing love for people and communicating openness to building relationships," he said. The families were mostly excited for the move, but Seyhmus said she was nervous. "I thought it was maybe the same experience which I faced in Turkey," she explained. "But when I came to Canada and was supported by many people who helped us, I found the opposite." It wasn't easy. Shekhmos said he experienced significant culture shock in Canada. However, he said the volunteers from the sponsoring group soon became like family. "I look at them and Douglas Mennonite like I'm seeing my relatives. They're very kind people, they're very friendly. I can't recognize why they should help us. They don't know us," Shekhmos said. "Until now I don't know why they do this unless they're angels." "We thank the Mennonite church to support us to come to a safe place," Seyhmus said. Robinson thinks community is key to helping newcomers fit in well in Canada and eventually find employment. "Whether you're in a Canadian church group or another community group, often that produces the first job opportunity," he said. "If you're just on the street with a resumé, it's not the same as finding work through someone in your community with someone who cares about you and wants to see you succeed." Currently, Seyhmus teaches English with the Winnipeg Adult Education Centre, while her brother works construction. Ali is a Skip the Dishes delivery person while he takes English classes and Kahil stays home with their children while learning English. Now that they're safe in Canada, the families said they can dream of a future. For Ali, all his dreams are for his daughters. "I wish for them to continue their studying and maybe in the future they will hopefully go to university. I wish for them to have a good life, not what we suffered in Syria. We wish for them to have a good life in Canada," he said. G6 Registered Member NEW HOME WARRANTY PROGRAM OF MANITOBA FIRE & FLOOD RESTORATION A DIVISION OF STEFAN HOME BUILDERS LTD. Randy Douglas 120 Haarsma Street East St. Paul, MB R2E 0M8 Phone: 204-663-2770 Cell: 204-941-1878 S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S | S A T U R D A Y , J U N E 2 2 , 2 0 1 9 INVESTED IN YOU With your support, we continue to invest in opportunities that create a positive impact in your local community. And our friendly, professional staff are right here to help you make the best decisions on a brighter future for you and your family. Syrian newcomers thankful for sponsorship group 204.255.1000 204.257.7214 P E F ENTERPRISES LTD. 95 SYMINGTON LANE • WINNIPEG, MB Proud to Support the important work of the Mennonite Central Committee Commercial & Residential Excavating & Hauling Riwas Kahil and her husband Jwan Ali, and their two daughters Shler, 5, and Sana, 3, arrived in Winnipeg last June. The family fled to Turkey from Syria in 2016 and came to Canada through private sponsorship in 2018. (MCC photo) Guevara Shekhmos and his sister Silava Seyhmus are enjoying their new life in Canada. The siblings were displaced from their homes by conflict in Syria and in 2018 secured sponsorship to immigrate to Winnipeg. (MCC photo)

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