Gidewen Melake arrived in Kelowna last Wednesday and was reunited with his family. (Courtesy of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees)

Eritrean family reunited in B.C.

A father was finally reunited with his wife and children who have been in Rossland since 2015.

After being separated from them for approximately seven years, a father was finally reunited with his wife and children who have been living in Rossland since 2015.

Gidewen Melake arrived in Canada last Wednesday at the Kelowna International Airport, where his family and volunteers from the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR) eventually arrived to meet him — though due to a scheduling error they weren’t there when he landed.

“All refugees, their travel is routed through an organization called the International Organization for Migration [IOM]. So IOM had booked all his plane tickets and they’d sent us the schedule, and so the schedule we received said that he would be arriving at 7:50 in the evening in Kelowna,” explained Jan Micklethwaite, a WKFoR volunteer.

But Melake’s plane arrived at 5 p.m. instead, when his family was still on route to Kelowna.

“By the time everybody arrived we were all feeling a little bit emotional because we were sorry that we hadn’t been there to greet him when he first got there and the little boys were getting very anxious to see their dad,” said Micklethwaite. “They just ran through the airport and just jumped at him and it was very emotional for us to watch.”

After sponsoring the rest of his family, who had fled Eritrea, WKFoR was able to sponsor Melake under the “one-year window.”

“Which means that if you come as a refugee, you have one year to apply for anybody who was originally listed on your application as a family member,” explains Micklethwaite.

Melake’s wife, Ruta Zakarias Yohannes, had originally listed him as her next of kin on her sponsorship application, even though at the time she didn’t know where he was or if he was still alive.

It was after she arrived in Canada that a relative contacted her and let her know that Melake was in Uganda.

Now that he’s in Canada, Melake will receive resettlement funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) for six months, while he attends English classes — though he already learned some English while in Uganda — and looks for employment.

WKFoR also has two other applications in progress.

One is a cousin of the Burmese family living in Rossland and the other is for the father and brother of a young Syrian woman living in Fruitvale.

Micklethwaite wanted to thank Rosslanders for the generosity they have shown so far in supporting bringing displaced families to Canada and encourages them to make Gidewen Melake feel welcome.