Syr­ian refugee fam­ily puts on din­ner to thank those who helped them re­set­tle in St. Ja­cobs

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - LIZ BE­VAN

IT’S BEEN ONE YEAR since the Karawani fam­ily ar­rived in St. Ja­cobs as refugees from Syria with noth­ing. A large group from a lo­cal church, along with other com­mu­nity mem­bers, came to­gether to find the fam­ily hous­ing, jobs, trans­porta­tion, among other ne­ces­si­ties to be­gin a new life.

As a ges­ture of thanks, the fam­ily gave back a lit­tle some­thing to those who gave them ev­ery­thing with a big feast of tra­di­tional Syr­ian foods on Satur­day.

Long ta­bles were laid out with many colour­ful dishes such as tab­bouleh – a tomato, pars­ley, mint, bul­gur and onion salad, kibbeh – a dough patty stuffed with meat, and yabrak – a dish of stuffed vine leaves. The feast took the fam­ily three days to cook.

Through a trans­la­tor, Mo­hamad Karawani, ex­pressed his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for all of the help his fam­ily of ten had re­ceived from the com­mu­nity. The fam­ily feels as though the com­mu­nity is an ex­ten­sion of their fam­ily.

“The spon­sors here, they have done things for us that no­body has ever done for us. They were very re­spect­ful and they helped them in a very nice way,” he said. “I con­sider Lester (We­ber) as bet­ter than a real brother. He has a spe­cial place in my heart. He has done things for us that no­body has. They had a birth­day party for me.”

Mo­hamad’s wife, Mariam, says her fam­ily wouldn’t be where they are with­out the lo­cal Men­non­ite group who wel­comed them to Canada. The sense of ca­ma­raderie is one of the things that stands out for her since ar­riv­ing in the re­gion one year ago.

“The way peo­ple treated us was very kind,” she said. “The most im­por­tant thing is that there is no racism, all re­li­gions are equal, and peo­ple love each other. They were very kind to us and we felt at home.”

Lester We­ber is just one of the nearly 100 peo­ple who banded to­gether to help the Karawa­nis in their time of need. He says the din­ner was a great idea for the fam­ily to show how much they ap­pre­ci­ate what the com­mu­nity has done for them.

“It is nice to see that there is ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what we have done. They have ex­pressed it oth­er­wise too, but it is nice to see that they want to go the ex­tra mile to do a thank you for the whole group, ev­ery­body to­gether,” he said. “They are a gov­ern­ment spon­sored fam­ily, but we ral­lied around them, tak­ing them to doc­tor’s ap­point­ments, den­tist ap­point­ments, but it has been a stretch­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for all of us. It has been in­ter­est­ing to in­ter­act with a dif­fer­ent cul­ture. This cer­tainly has opened my un­der­stand­ing.”

The din­ner started with a speech from the fam­ily, thank­ing the group for their help. Mo­hamad ex­pressed his grat­i­tude.

“We would like to thank all of you as a group for all that you did for us,” he said. “You were very kind to us and we can’t de­scribe how you have touched our hearts and we don’t know how to re­ally thank you for all that you did. Our din­ner to­day is a ges­ture to tell you how much we ap­pre­ci­ate what you have done and it is au­then­tic Syr­ian cui­sine, so en­joy it.”

The fam­ily has made a home in St. Ja­cobs, and they don’t have plans to move any time soon.

“We have no intention to change any­thing. We love the area, we love the peo­ple and we want to stay here,” said Mo­hamad.

[LIZ BE­VAN / THE OB­SERVER]

Lester We­ber rep­re­sents the group that ral­lied around the Karawani fam­ily in their time of need. The fam­ily of ten, headed up my Mo­hamad and Mariam, spent three days cook­ing a feast of tra­di­tional Syr­ian dishes on Apr. 1.

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