Newcomers celebrate new start in St. John's with welcome party

·2 min read
Out of breath from jumping on the bouncy castle, Sultan Tokhi's five-year-old son holds up the peace sign next to his father. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Out of breath from jumping on the bouncy castle, Sultan Tokhi's five-year-old son holds up the peace sign next to his father. (Meg Roberts/CBC - image credit)

With every leap Sultan Tokhi's son takes on the bouncy castle, his smile continues to grow. It's a smile that Tokhi hasn't seen on his five-year-old's face in a very long time.

"I haven't seen the pleasure or the smile on my babies in my country. When we came here, he is just smiling," said Tokhi.

The family arrived in Canada from Afghanistan five months ago and on Friday, thanks to the generosity of a local entertainment company, the family was able to let loose at a welcome party hosted by the Association for New Canadians.

Bouncy castles, a dance floor, balloon animals and a reptile display had kids giggling and squealing for hours in a room at the PowerPlex in St. John's.

Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

All of the province's newcomers who have arrived in the past year were invited to the event, which included Tokhi, his three brothers and their children.

Tokhi and his brother spent years translating for the Canadian military in Afghanistan, when the Taliban took over he knew the family had to get out.

Between his family, which includes his wife and two kids, and his brother's family there are 13 of them who have started a new life in St. John's.

Warm welcome

The new start called for a party, according to the owner of Jelly Bean Entertainment, a children's entertainment company.

Troy Stuckless reached out to the ANC to offer his services for free when he heard the province would be welcoming Afghan refugees.

Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

"I wanted to give them a really good start to their Canadian life and do something really fun … just a little bit of a change of pace from what they have been going through," said Stuckless.

"I wanted to make sure that when they arrived here that they were welcomed."

Tokhi said so far he has felt welcomed in Newfoundland and Labrador and is grateful for his new life, although he still thinks about family members that were left behind.

The federal government has brought 157 Afghan refugees to Newfoundland and Labrador so far.

A pharmacist by trade, Tokhi said he hopes to go back to school in his new home — but more than anything, he's thrilled his children are safe.

"We are thinking about this new generation … I am so happy for the kids."

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