Knox reunites refugees

pg02-n-refugeeNathalie Bradbury of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Pat Wong, Phil and Linda Winkelaar, Laurie Fyffe and Pastor Jim Pot of the Knox Presbyterian. The Tayar family presented the group with a plaque of the Lord’s Prayer that hung in their Syrian home before the war. Kelsey Curtis, Centretown NewsA refugee family from Syria has been reunited in Ottawa thanks to members of the Knox Refugee Committee, based at Centretown church.

The committee welcomed the five remaining members of the Tayar family on Nov. 22.

The eldest daughter had arrived four weeks earlier, and she had been anticipating the arrival of the rest of her family ever since. The family had been waiting in Lebanon for more than a year to be admitted to Canada.

The committee at Knox Presbyterian Church, located at 120 Lisgar Ave., raised more than $40,000 for the family’s refugee settlement fund. Of that money, $12,000 is dedicated to housing for the family.

The money to bring the Tayar family to Canada was raised through private sponsorship. 

Knox committee member Laurie Fyffe says that the organization has pledged to support the family financially for a year.

“You pay for their basic needs, and you work with them to help them adjust to life in Canada,” she said.“You help them get language lessons, jobs, education, whatever you can. It’s all about preparing them for life in Canada.

The Tayar family was forced to flee from the Syrian city of Aleppo after their home was destroyed by rebel airstrikes. They had been waiting in Lebanon for over a year to be admitted to Canada.

Committee member Lisa Jennings said the family was being persecuted because of their Christian faith. “Christians in Syria are very much at risk right now,” she said. “They were stopped on the road between Homs and Aleppo by a rebel group and their names were placed on a wanted list.”

Knox raised money for the family through donations, concerts and silent auctions. Fyffe said she designed a Christmas card that was made available so people could give a donation to the Refugee Sponsorship Fund as a Christmas gift.

Jennings stressed that there are other ways to contribute besides simply giving money, such as donating furniture. 

“If somebody says ‘Well I have a fridge I’m not using,’ or ‘I’ve got a spare bed that nobody is sleeping in,’ then they can donate to the family and that will be deducted from the total,” she said.

Matthew House furniture bank, a faith-based organization caring for Ottawa’s marginalized population, picked up and distributed furniture and household goods for the Tayar family.

Jennings said that while Knox Ottawa has not been working in partnership with other Presbyterian churches, she has been in contact with them in order to obtain advice.

“Through the church I have contact with the Presbyterian church of Brockville, and Manotick, and these people are good resources for me. I can go to them and say, ‘I don’t know what to do about this, what do I put here?” she said.

The church had been waiting for over a year to welcome the family to Ottawa. Fyffe said that she had spoken to many sponsorship teams that had experienced similar delays. 

“We thought that it would only take them a couple of months to come to Canada” she said. “Instead it took more than a year and they were unable to all arrive at the same time.”

Fyffe says that she first became involved in helping refugees after her parents sponsored a young couple that had to flee Prague during the Soviet invasion of 1968. “This couple came to stay in our house for months, and I was so surprised how my mother graciously opener her home to strangers. They became very good friends of my family. You learn a lot about yourself, you own family, and your country when you reach out to people.”

The Tayar family members have declined to comment through committee members.