Smiles, waves and a tiny teddy bear needed no translation to welcome a Syrian family to Regina at the airport.
Radi Al Bardan, his wife Safaa Khamees and their their seven-month-old son Rida Al Bardan are the first of many government-sponsored refugees to arrive in Regina. Their first gifts were Canadian flags, handmade cards from an elementary school plus a Roughrider toque and a small Rider teddy bear.
Al Bardan nodded and laughed in surprise as a translator from the Regina Open Door Society introduced him to Regina Mayor Michael Fougere,Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport Mark Docherty, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. They were only part of the welcoming committee that included people from the Regina Open Door Society (RODS) and a line of community members who just wanted to say hello.
“It’s really beautiful to be here right now,” said Naomi Hunter, who handed out bright signs reading ‘Welcome to Canada’ in English and Arabic. “I hope they feel very welcome seeing so many people come out to say hello to them.”
The warm welcome even extended to the weather outside, with the temperature around -6 C.
Speaking through a translator named Ziad Al Housseini, Al Bardan told members of the media how happy his family is to be in Canada.
“They feel that they are so proud and happy to be here and they feel very safe,” he said.
He described his home country of Syria as unsafe and a mess, while Canada is safe and organized.
Even after a long, two-day plane journey with a baby, Al Bardan and Khamees smiled and said thank you as they shook hands with the line of people waiting to greet them. Their baby son, Rida Al Bardan, waved a tiny Canadian flag in his fist, getting a lot of smiles from the crowd.
“It is overwhelming,” Al Housseini translated, “They are happy to see the people of Canada, they are so respectful, they are so civilized and they thank you very much again and again.”
The couple says they are very happy because their son will have the chance to be educated and live peacefully. They expect life here to be way better than what it was when they spent three years living in a refugee camp in Jordan.
Darcy Dietrich with RODS says this family will be the first of many. They will be spending the next several weeks living in temporary housing while filling out forms, getting health checks and language assessment and even simply adjusting to grocery shopping.
“We’ve received an overwhelming amount of support, in terms of new volunteers – well over 250 new volunteers – donations like we’ve never seen before, so incredible community support.”
You can find more information about how you can help on the RODS website.