By Laurie Cooper
Special to Black Press Media
When the Alismail family fled war-torn Syria as refugees, the siblings and parents went in different directions. Some of the family ended up in Lebanon; others went to Turkey.
This spring, after many years of separation, three of the siblings will be reunited in Smithers.
Ishmail Alismail and his brother Mahmoud came to Canada in 2016, after being refugees in Lebanon.
Ishmail came to Smithers and Mahmoud went to Toronto. A few years later, Mahmoud and his two sons, Mohammad, 16, and Ahmad, 14, moved to Smithers to be closer to Ishmail.
In a few weeks, a third sibling will be joining them. Their sister Aisha will be arriving in Canada with her husband Mohamad and their four young children - Nadim (11), Nahla (9), Nour (7) and Hamza (5).
Both of the brothers are very excited to be reunited with their sister
“It has been eight years since I have seen my sister. I haven’t met her two youngest children” said Ishmail. “I have lots of friends here, but it is different to have family close to you.”
The sponsorship application was submitted through St James Anglican Church and Aisha and her family are being supported by some of the same people who were involved in bringing her brother Ishmael to Smithers.
Christine Birnie and her partner, Alf King, of Telkwa were part of that group and they are looking forward to being able to welcome Aisha and her family.
“It’s amazing that here - in this tiny corner of northwest British Columbia - this would be the place the family can reunite,” said Birnie. “It’s just wonderful.”
Birnie says that her involvement in refugee sponsorship has taught her a lot. “It has made me appreciate the importance of reaching out to people.
It’s easy to never get around to doing something because you are too involved in your own life.
When you do reach out, you are rewarded in such amazing ways. It allows you to see how we are all connected.”
The sponsorship team has raised a good portion of the funds to cover the family’s basic needs for the first year, but they are trying to raise the final $20,000 to cover housing expenses.
They are also focused on finding housing for the family.
“We are looking for a house or apartment in the downtown area,” said Kathy Spiro, another member of the sponsorship team.
“That way the family can walk wherever they need to go and the children will be close to schools and recreational opportunities.”
People are asked to reach out if they have accommodation available for rent or donations can be made at the Bulkley Valley Credit Union to the “Bakie Family” account.
Online donations can be made via GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/f/bring-a-refugee-family-together-in-smithers.
Laurie Cooper is a Smithers resident who has helped settle numerous refugees in Canada. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.