'I'm so happy, happy, happy': Somali family reunion in Saint John
A Somali family, torn apart by civil war and illness, will be reunited Tuesday night at the Saint John Airport.
Abdiwahab Elmi and his wife, Faduma Maalin, haven't seen four of their children in years.
For Elmi, it's been over a decade.
And there's one son, Jamal, whom he's never met at all because that child was born after Elmi fled Somalia, alone, in 2005.
"I'm so happy, happy, happy," he said during an interview in his south end apartment in Saint John.
To the outsider, it's hard to believe that the family is incomplete.
That's because Elmi and Maalin did bring over five of their nine children in April 2014. They are now ages 23, seven, six, five and three.
With the youngest ones spilling out of the couch and their fidgeting and giggles filling the room, one wouldn't guess four children were left behind in a complicated journey that saw Elmi and his wife separated and then back together in South Africa.
Since arriving in Saint John, the Elmis have been building a life with the help and support of the YMCA, including Newcomer Connections settlement supervisor Kelly Carline.
"I don't know if I can talk about it too much, without crying," said Carline who expects to be at the airport Tuesday evening.
She says getting this far, was a collaborative effort.
"There's been players all along the way," she said. "People helping with documentation and phone calls and raising money."
"This family is well known and loved in the community and there's many people who are excited to see them united."
For example, Saint Johners came up with more than $6,000 to help pay the permit costs to get the children out of Ethiopia.
That's how far they got with the help of an uncle, who drove them out of Somalia in 2014.
The uncle was not allowed into the country so the children have been living alone in Addis Ababa ever since.
They are now ages 19, 17, 15 and 11.
It was confirmed Monday that the children had caught the first of multiple flights that would bring them to New Brunswick.
Elmi says he has invited all his friends and co-workers from Costco to join him at the airport.
He says his they've been really helpful and he thanks them.
On Friday, the family is expected to move into two apartments in the same building.
It will almost certainly be a time of big adjustment for everyone.
Carline says Elmi's story isn't as rare as one might think.
She says refugee families are divided all the time and they spend too long apart.
"It can take years. So this three years is a bit of a miracle in some ways."
"While we're excited that they're coming, we are grieving with the family, too, for what they've lost since they've been separated."
Faduma, whose English is still coming along, didn't say much.
But her expressive face revealed joy, sorrow and hope.
And when Carline arrived and put her arms around on Maalin, she was a for an instant, quietly overcome.