A Syrian family has arrived in Rossland.
Teysir and Hiba Misto arrived with their young son on Tuesday, the day before their second wedding anniversary. The couple met in Turkey, after fleeing Aleppo. It took three days for them to travel from Turkey to the Castlegar Airport, but when they finally arrived they were greeted by members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR) and Zakia Hanafy, a young pre-med student and member of the Castlegar Refugee Coalition, who provided translation services.
The WKFoR has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of a Syrian family, and now that the Mistos are here, WKFoR member Jan Micklethwaite says it’s very exciting. “It feels wonderful,” she says. “They’re a lovely couple; they’re just delightful.”
The Mistos are the fourth Syrian family that the WKFoR applied to sponsor. “We applied for the first family and, for whatever reasons, they didn’t come,” says Micklethwaite. “Then the second family, we made it through all the hoops and then they decided not to come, and then the third family had some health issues, which meant it wasn’t appropriate for them to live in a place with hills, and this [was] our fourth set of applications.”
Teysir and Hiba’s first stop on Thursday was the Service Canada office in Trail where they applied for their permanent resident cards. The process presented a bit of a challenge as the Mistos speak little English and WKFoR members speak even less Arabic, but Micklethwaite says Google Translate has come in handy. Service Canada was also able to provide a translator to help with the applications.
“Service Canada actually does provide translation services, but this was the first time they’d ever used it,” she says. “They had to go and hook up a phone, and then phone someone in Vancouver who could actually spell what these people were saying.”
The couple hasn’t yet met Rahaf Zwayne, a displaced Syrian, also sponsored by WKFoR, who arrived earlier this year, but Micklethwaite hopes that they soon will. “She’s studying in Nelson, so she’s there during the week,” Micklethwaite explains. Zwayne isn’t expected back in Trail until next weekend, when she will hopefully have a chance to meet the Mistos.
The family’s sponsorship was made possible by members of the community who contributed to WKFoR. Micklethwaite says the organization has seen an outpouring of support. “We’ve had some very generous offers from some of our members, and even people on the plane who were traveling with them donated money,” she told the News. “They saw us all standing around and they were handing us wads of bills because just in the little plane flight that they’d been on, this young couple had kind of won their hearts.”
Asked what community members can do to help the Mistos now that they are here, Micklethwaite said, “I think the most important thing is to be friendly to them when they meet them on the street, to make sure that they smile at them — these people have lovely smiles and they’ll smile back — and to just make them feel like they’re part of the community.”
WKFoR raising money to reunite families
With the Mistos now safely arrived, WKFoR will be fundraising to sponsor the individuals its applied to sponsor for family reunification. The organization has applied to sponsor Zwayne’s brother and father, a cousin of Lun Lun San and Aung Ko Ko Latt from Burma, and Ruta Zakarias Yohannes’s husband from Eritrea.
As part of its fundraising efforts, the WKFoR will hold a concert in February, which will also benefit the Mistos.