The last of the two Syrian families that arrived in Lewisporte as part of the Canada-wide push to welcome refugees from the war-torn country are now leaving Newfoundland and Labrador.
Talika Morjan arrived in the small town in June 2016 from a refugee camp in Lebanon. Her son Mohamad Moufleh, daughter-in-law Fatima Al-Ahmed and their two children followed in March 2017. Sponsored by the Lewisporte Refugee Outreach Committee, the family lived in the basement apartment of the group's chair. But Morjan said trying to settle in has been a battle, especially during the nine months she was on her own.
"I struggled so much for the first few months, because I was lonely and had no family, nobody that understood Arabic," she told CBC through a translator.
While the two children, Rayane and Moussa, made strides with English while attending school for the first time in their lives, Morjan, Moufleh and Al-Ahmed had more trouble and found it difficult to communicate without a translator. Although the family said residents in Lewisporte were friendly and they're grateful for everything, the isolation of rural Newfoundland is difficult.
"Life for Arabs here is really tough. There's not many Arab communities here. There's not many jobs for people like them, to keep them wanting to stay here," a translator summarized for Al-Ahmed.
Moufleh had a seasonal job as an exterior painter, but is hoping for something with more permanency when the family moves to Windsor, Ont., at the end of the school year, a city where Arabic is the most common mother tongue after English and French, and where relatives of theirs have already settled.
For the refugee group's chair, the move is bittersweet.
"I've enjoyed being able to be part of the team that brought them here and gave them the opportunity to be Canadians and permanent residents, so that they know that they can be permanently safe and in the country itself," said Rev. Stephanie McLellan.
"But we're really glad they started out with us in Lewisporte."
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