Somali family reunites at Saint John Airport after more than a decade apart

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Somali family reunites at Saint John Airport after more than a decade apart

When Faduma Maalin first caught a glimpse of one of her sons coming off the Air Canada flight, she ran past the security line where she broke down crying on the floor.

One by one, her four children came through the doors at the Saint John Airport, whom she hadn't seen in more than a decade.

Maalin and her husband, Abdiwahab Elmi, hugged and cried with the children in front of 50 friends, co-workers and members of the community, who had been fundraising for this special moment.

The father of nine says his family is finally together and safe again.

"I'm excited, I'm very good. That Canada, that my children are welcome in Canada," said an emotional Elmi.

"It's a very, very good feeling."

A rally of support

Suzy Hansen has worked with Elmi at Costco for about a year.

A few months ago, she started an online fundraiser and sold earrings on the side to pay fees to the Ethiopian government to release the children and send them on their way to Canada. Hansen fundraised about $3,000 in total. 

"When Faduma took off her jacket and was running for the door to hug her children, that was it for me, it was all worth it," said Hansen.

She said the reunion was emotional for everyone involved, who witnessed something incredible on Tuesday night.

"Oh I'm a dishrag," she said.

"An emotional wreck."

David Peterson, a resettlement counsellor at the YMCA's Newcomer Connections program, has worked closely with the family by helping them start their new life in Canada. 

For the past three years, Peterson said the YMCA program has been working hard with partners and volunteers to reunite the family at their new home in Saint John. 

"You can feel the excitement at the airport," he said.

"To come to this point where you know the kids are here in Canada and to participate in their arrival at these doors, is exciting."

Despite the long process, Peterson said he is hopeful the latest family reunion will give other families in similar situations a similar goal to work towards.

The family will now be spending time their time catching up and getting to know each other, some for the first time. 

"They're all happy and rejoicing in sharing this moment together," he said.