In 2015, St. Stephen’s started hosting St. Basil’s parish, an Eastern Catholic Melkite parish, which holds services in Arabic. At the same time, millions of Syrians were being displaced due to conflict in their home country. Against this backdrop, Parish Council decided to sponsor a Syrian family in late 2015.
In Calgary, private sponsorship is handled through Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS). We notified CCIS that we were prepared to make a one-year sponsorship commitment, and soon our adopted family was identified. This was the Oubed family: father Samer, mother Katrin, and two boys George and Hanna. On December 20, 2015 they arrived in Canada, and a day later they arrived in Calgary.
Two parish families volunteered to host the Oubeds until their permanent accommodations were ready, and in the end the Oubeds stayed with Bill and Marilyn Kennedy. The Kennedys were excellent hosts and opened their doors to this new family over the Christmas season and provided new Calgary experiences.
At the same time, a small group of volunteers from the parish secured rental accommodation, furnishings, food and clothing and in January 2016 the Oubeds moved into their new home, and the boys started school. Katrin had no English proficiency, but soon started English classes at CCIS and over the past year has improved tremendously.
Samer started looking for work immediately to further his career in Accounting. Unfortunately he found it very difficult to find something in his area of expertise primarily because of the poor state of Calgary’s economy. He did manage to find minimum wage jobs at Superstore and at Lowe’s, and he did complete his Canadian Accounting certification. In December he finally landed a suitable accounting position at Core-Mark.
CCIS handled 534 refugees in 2015 and 900 in 2016 (of which St. Stephens sponsored 4). Not all were Syrians; about half were Africans from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. In 2013 two churches had a sponsorship program and that grew to 27 in 2016. St. Stephens has now ended its financial support for this family, however ongoing social support and friendly visits are always welcome.
The picture shows the family on the day they arrived in Calgary along with Father Ephram and Bill and Marilyn Kennedy. The family is very thankful for the all the support provided by St. Stephens.
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