Local Mission: New Hope
Yasser and Insaf arrived in Canada with their four children just less than a year ago. Their twin boys were eight at the time, their daughter was four and their youngest, Zachariah, was just three months old.
Originally from Syria, they came from Lebanon where they were refugees for three years, waiting for their approval to come to Canada.
The family of six has lived in Surrey at the New Hope apartment building for the past year. New Hope Community Services Society is a non-profit organization that assists refugees and new Canadian immigrants in becoming integrated into Canadian life. New Hope owns an apartment building in Surrey where refugee families can live for 12 to 24 months as they get adjusted.
In Syria, Yasser worked in farming and construction, and Insaf was a pharmacist. When bombs started falling on their hometown they moved their family to another town where they thought they would be safe, but the bombs followed them.
Each time they would settle into a new town, soon enough the bombs would start falling around them. They moved five times before they decided they had to get out of Syria, even if it meant leaving all of their relatives. They needed to get their children away from the danger, so they crossed the border to Lebanon.
As soon as they arrived in Lebanon they applied to come to Canada, but they had a long wait ahead of them. Things in Lebanon were not easy. They lived in a house with four other families. Each family got one room and all of the families shared one washroom. Yasser worked whenever he could, but Syrians were not always treated as welcomed guests in Lebanon. People often took advantage of them. Sometimes Yasser would work for multiple days and never get paid.
They were often tempted to go back to Syria. Insaf especially wanted to go back and be with her relatives, but they knew they would be going back to bombs.
When they found out they would be able to come to Canada after three years in Lebanon, Insaf was already seven months pregnant with Zachariah and couldn’t fly. They waited another long six months to leave Lebanon, but when they finally did, Insaf had mixed emotions about leaving.
She was really anxious to get going and excited to leave Lebanon, but as they rode the bus to the airport, she cried. She was glad to be going to Canada, but she was heartbroken at the thought of moving even farther away from her family and relatives in Syria. It had already been nearly four years since she had seen any of them.
Yasser and Insaf knew so little about Canada and what it was going to be like. They felt like they were going into the unknown.
When they landed in Vancouver, people from New Hope and their sponsor church were there to meet them.
The main difference they really noticed about Canada is they felt safe. Yasser says that in Syria you’re always questioned, “Who are you? What do you do? Where are you going?” But here they have the freedom to move around and go where they want. They feel comfortable.
But the adjustment was challenging. They didn’t know anything about life in Canada when they got here, and the language barrier made things harder. They knew a little English but it was a struggle to communicate.
It was their church sponsors who helped them learn the basics like grocery shopping, medical care, public transit, schools for the kids, libraries, public parks, and more.
Yasser and Insaf say they’re grateful for how much Canadians have helped them. And although it’s been a challenge, Yasser says he’s happy to be in Canada. “There are opportunities to work here. If someone wants to work, they can work. Here, if somebody gives you a job, they pay you, and that’s nice.”
Most of all, Yasser and Insaf like the way the kids are treated. “The kids are benefiting. They benefit from the education and there’s a future here for them,” Yasser says. “Canadians are friendly. If they see you on the street they’ll say hi, and they love the kids.”
Insaf likes to joke with the kids saying, “Should we go back to Syria or Lebanon?” And the kids always say, “Are you kidding? No!”
We as Canadians have the privilege of living in a peaceful country. We have a responsibility to help share it with the brave newcomers who are doing what they have to do for the safety of their families and are doing their best to learn how to navigate life in Canada.
Yasser says the main thing newcomers like them need is simply friendship. When refugees leave behind their homes, they also leave behind all of their connections, so chances to connect with other Canadians are so important to them.
Village Church volunteers have been involved in New Hope initiatives for more than a year, and they’ve served in many different ways. Opportunities to get involved include tutoring kids, teaching English to women, participating in men’s social nights, helping individual families as they arrive and start to integrate, and more. And there are new families arriving very soon.
As a church, we’ve committed to sponsoring five apartment units at New Hope. Sponsoring a unit as a community group is a great way to serve as a group, get out of your bubble, and help these new Canadian families integrate. This is an amazing opportunity to make a tangible impact in the lives of the people in our city.
For more information on serving in any of the above areas, click here.
Yasser and Insaf are now at the end of one year at New Hope and support from the government and their sponsors will end. Currently, Yasser works on the weekends in a hummus and yogurt factory, but their next goal is for him to find full-time work.
Right now, they’re just taking it one day at a time.
Opportunities to Serve at New Hope:
Tutoring Students - Late Afternoons on Tuesdays & Thursdays
Tutoring/English Teaching for Women - During the Day - Monday -Thursday
Men’s Social Night - The last Friday of every month from 7:30-10:00pm
Help a family integrate - We're looking for community groups to take on each of the 5 units we've sponsored as a church and help these new Canadian families integrate.