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'We want to help this family thrive'

June 30, 2017
Ahmad Al Hamad with Georgetown Mayor Rick Bonnette. The Al Hamad family has been welcomed warmly by the town.

Ahmad Al Hamad with Georgetown Mayor Rick Bonnette. The Al Hamad family has been welcomed warmly by the town.

From June 19-30, we will be sharing stories of Christian Reformed churches and individuals across the United States and Canada who have opened their hearts and homes to those fleeing from war and persecution. The following is the last story in this series.

Georgetown (Ontario) CRC  - Seeing the image of Alan Kurdi, a small Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey in September, 2015 compelled a Georgetown, Ontario, woman to become actively involved in refugee resettlement. 

The Syrian family that Wilma Grin, member at Georgetown (Ontario) Christian Reformed Church, is helping to support through the Halton Hills Coalition for Refugees (HHC4R),  knows this loss all too well, through the deaths of two infant children while living in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

To date, more than five million Syrians are registered as refugees with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with millions more in desperate need of protection. Some are living in organized refugee camps, but many others are in informal settlements, struggling for survival while trying to come terms with the loss of their home and loved ones.

After seeing the image of Kurdi in the media, Grin joined with other community members to form the HHC4R, a group whose members contribute $1,000 of their own money and then work in groups of 15 to raise additional funds to sponsor a family.  Other members of Georgetown CRC have also become members of this Halton Hills Coalition.

Grin connected the group with Rebecca Walker, refugee coordinator at World Renew to be the Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) and Georgetown CRC became a major financial contributor. They raised $16,000 with one Sunday collection for refugees in camps, showing the congregation’s concern and desire to help. 

Setting up a Syrian Refugee Fund, the church raised another $11,500 for HHC4R. They were preparing for a family of four, but World Renew asked if they would take a family of seven. The family was in great need and access to medical care was important. The next day, tenants in one of the Grins’ rental homes gave notice and the Grins offered this larger home for the family’s use. 

On Sept. 20, 2016, after several delays, the Al Hamad family finally walked through the doors at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario.

Grin said she is thrilled to see how her community has come together to welcome and support this family.  Businesses and individuals have donated swimming lessons, food, clothes, furniture, dental care and a van. Parents from a local Montessori school, upon hearing that the children were walking to school in the rain, donated new rain gear for the family.  Another family campaigned to get them bicycles.

These acts of generosity mean so much to the young refugee mother, as adjusting to Canada has its challenges, Grin says.  With her husband, Ahmad,  working long hours, she has five young ones underfoot without the support of family and friends. As she does not read, learning a new language is more difficult.  

Grin is actively involved, both as landlord but also driving them to get groceries and to medical and dental appointments. It is a blessing that there is Arabic speaking staff at the local medical clinic, she says. The English as a Second Language teacher at the children’s primary school also speaks Arabic.

It has been a wonderful experience for Grin and other core members involved in the daily lives of this family they have come to love. 

“It’s not an obligation but we all really want to do what we can to help this family thrive in Canada,” said Grin. While adjusting to life in Canada continues to bring its challenges, Grin said the family is thankful to be in Georgetown.

“They asked if we could use the strongest, most powerful words in the English language we knew to tell how incredibly grateful they are.”