Iraqi family goes from refugees to building their own home

·3 min read
The Toma family is shown in front of their new home. From left, in the back, are Basma, Thomas, Odiss and Joseph. Peter is in front. Andre, one of four sons, is missing from the photo.  (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)
The Toma family is shown in front of their new home. From left, in the back, are Basma, Thomas, Odiss and Joseph. Peter is in front. Andre, one of four sons, is missing from the photo. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

The Toma family has gone from being Iraqi refugees sponsored by a group of churches to building their own home in P.E.I. — and it only took them less than four years.

The family arrived in Charlottetown in the spring of 2018, wanting to escape the dangers of their former country.

They faced numerous delays, so once Joseph Toma and his wife, Basma, finally made it to P.E.I. with their four boys they worked to make the most of their new life in Canada.

"I'm very excited for my new house with my family here," said Joseph Toma. "It's good here."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Odiss and Andre, the older of the four boys, help with the work when they can.

"We are so grateful to be here in Canada now, safe and secure," Basma Toma said through a translator.

They worked and saved, bought land and secured financing for a mortgage.

The family is doing most of the work themselves on the seven-bedroom house.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Joseph Toma said he wanted plenty of space in hopes that his children will stay home for a long time.

"It's a good big house," he said. "I need all my sons with me. No going this way, that way."

Got jobs, saved money

Joseph Toma and Odiss quickly got jobs at a local plumbing company when they arrived in P.E.I.

Joseph Toma had done that work for most of his life in Iraq and also had some experience with construction.

"It's amazing, this is just a great family," said Callum Beck, the pastor at Central Christian Church.

"Joseph was working within three months of arriving here, Odiss shortly after that, and they've built this all on their own work," he said.

Beck said he can't imagine a bigger success story when it comes to refugee sponsorship.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Pastor Michael Ghiz, who knew the Toma family when they were in Lebanon, had recommended the family for sponsorship.

"The worked really well and saved a lot of money," said Ghiz. "I think it's absolutely amazing."

Close-knit family working together

Odiss, 22, said he has great admiration for his father.

"I think he's amazing. He's really smart to do all this. It is a first time for him [building a house]," said Odiss.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

In Iraq, some children carry past grandfather's names, so under that practice the children use the last name Fakhri.

Younger brothers Peter and Thomas enjoy exploring the building site and proudly show their rooms off to visitors.

"Our life is going to change, it's going to be better," said Thomas, who is 14.

Peter, 9, likes that his room is next to a bathroom with a large tub.

"I can swim everyday," he said.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Odiss said he can already imagine the family having fun in their new house. The home sits in a new subdivision, overlooking a large green space that contains several soccer fields.

"It's amazing, I can't wait to live here," he said.

The family expects to move in this spring.

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