BADDECK, N.S. — The wait is finally over for a Cape Breton community hoping to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada.
It’s been two years since the Syria to Baddeck Steering Committee began the process of one day bringing a family to the Victoria County village, but the dream has finally become a reality.
The Esmaeel family, consisting of a father, mother and four children, was expected to arrive at the J.A. Douglas McCurdy Airport in Sydney late Thursday night, where two committee members planned to accompany them to their new home in Baddeck.
“It’s a huge relief and it’s still a little bit unbelievable that they’re finally coming,” said Jennifer MacDonald, a member of the local committee.
“Wednesday night they were sitting at the airport in Amman as refugees in Jordan and Friday they’re permanent residents in Canada — their whole life is shifting in the next few hours.”
- Syrian family closer to arriving in Baddeck
- Housing secured as Syrian family’s arrival in Baddeck nears
The Syria to Baddeck Steering Committee received strong support in November 2015 in their effort to bring a family to Canada.
The committee later identified the Esmaeels as the family they wanted to sponsor and began raising money and forming sub-committees to help the family.
The family’s application was processed in July 2016 and the committee initially believed it would take 12 to 19 months until the family would be approved and allowed to enter the country.
In May 2017, the committee learned the application to sponsor the family had been approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and later forwarded to the Canadian embassy in Amman, Jordan, with only security checks and medical screenings holding the family back from their Canadian permanent residency cards.
With that, the committee believed the family would arrive in Victoria County on Sept. 1, but they later learned it could take another 19 months due to a backlog in the private sponsorship refugee program.
It wasn’t until last November when the committee found out the Esmaeels had been interviewed and their medical checks and background screening had been conducted by a private security firm and that they’d eventually be coming.
MacDonald said the delays in the family arriving were frustrating, but the process was worthwhile in the end.
“It was only minor compared to the experience of the family,” she said. “We can’t begin to understand what they’re leaving and I’m sure they’re having mixed emotions leaving their family and friends behind.
“The story is really about them and how brave they’ve been through this process and hopefully their life will change when they step off that plane.”
The committee was told three weeks ago that the family would be arriving in April, much to the pleasure of the group.
“Our ultimate goal is to make them feel like they’re part of the community and I know Baddeck has certainly embraced them,” said MacDonald. “This is something that the whole community has taken ownership of and it’s been amazing to experience it.”
Earlier this year, the committee was able to secure housing for the family, who will live in a home previously owned by Baddeck resident Bill Fraser, a supporter of the Syrian to Baddeck project, who died on Jan. 17.
The committee officially signed the lease for the three-bedroom village home on Feb. 13.
MacDonald understands the community’s excitement for the family’s arrival, but the committee plans to be “protective” of the them in the early stages.
“They’re going to need time to adjust to everything from the weather to their new space, their new home and all of those things,” said MacDonald. “Right now, what they need is a little bit of privacy.
“There are some logistical things that we need to do like getting them a health card, social insurance number and setting up bank accounts and all of those things need to be done and will be done.”
Over the past two years, the Syria to Baddeck committee was able to raise $40,000 to help the family for one year, through fundraisers and donations.
Although a lot of work has already been put into planning for the family’s arrival, MacDonald said the work isn’t over yet.
“We don’t really know what to expect,” she said. “We need to respond to their needs. We want them to be ultimately self-sufficient, but we need to help them develop skills and we need to learn the skills that they have so that we can help them find meaningful employment.”
The Esmaeels have family members currently living in the Halifax area. Those family members were expected to arrive today in Baddeck and stay throughout the weekend to help the family transition and help with the language barrier.
“It will be an emotional reunion because these folks haven’t seen each other in a really long time,” said MacDonad. “The kids haven’t met each other, so we’re really grateful that their relatives are coming to be part of this process.”
Syria To Baddeck Group – March 19th, 2018
Friends and supporters,
We have news to share. We received an email this afternoon from the Embassy indicating that our file has been officially approved, visas have been issued and the family will be called in to the Embassy get exit visas and to make travel plans. The International Office of Migration will support the family in this pre-arrival phase, and has indicated that we can expect them to arrive in Baddeck in 4-10 weeks. I realise this is still a bit of a wait, but it is a clear picture and exactly what we’ve been waiting for. The Embassy will inform us of their travel specifics 10 days before arrival, but I would suspect that the family will know that information sooner than that. We are fortunate that we’re able to communicate with them, so hopefully we will know more soon. We will hope for the earliest possible arrival, and that crocuses and daffodils are popping up for their arrival!
Fortunately, we have had folks generously contribute time and effort into preparing the house, and we feel that we are ready to welcome them any day. There are still some final details/finishing touches to add, but it is certainly a home that could be moved into. Folks have generously contributed personal care items, groceries, bedding, furniture, kitchen goods, boys and games and toys – the list goes on and on. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.
We will be calling a public meeting soon to discuss the settlement plan, our budget and to share some photos of the house and details of the family’s travel plans. We want to be sure that we do the arrival and early stages properly – so the family feels supported, and also has space to adjust. We know we can rely on everyone’s cooperation and support as you’ve been nothing but supportive so far. Well begun is half done, as they say.
We would like to put out a call for someone who has a skill set and interest in personal financial planning. We will need someone to help the family learn about our banking system, talk them through their budget, and accompany them to the first few trips to the bank (setting up debit cards, etc.). Whomever that person is will have to undergo a criminal record check through the RCMP as per the government’s expectations for sponsorship groups (it’s a simple trip to the barracks with ID, it is free and is done right then and there). If you think you may be interested, please let one of the steering committee members know, or reply to this email.
Thank you again for all your support. This has been a long and arduous process, but it will all become worth it when this family is welcomed into a safe home and community.
The Steering Committee
(Donnell Beaton, Athol Grant, Chris King, Jen MacDonald, Aynsley MacFarlane)
February 13, 2018 Update
Hello friends and supporters,
Our family now has a house in Baddeck!! We signed a lease today on the family’s behalf for a 3 bedroom house in the village. Incredibly, the homeowner also donated the vast majority of the furnishings to the family. Given that act of generosity, we don’t have to do a major furniture drive. On that note, we do have a beautiful dining room table with 4 chairs, a buffet, a coffee table and two side tables that had been previously donated and we currently have stored that we do not have a need for. The donor has graciously told us to sell the furniture, and take the proceeds as a monetary donation. So, I will post details shortly on the “Syria to Baddeck” Facebook page and will include photos. Please, share widely. If you’re not on Facebook and would like me to email you the pictures, just reply back and I’ll do so.
At our meeting last week, we handed out lists of items that will help us make our house a home – things like pantry staples, personal care items, books and bedding. Thank you so much to those folks who took a list – there were none left at the end of the evening! There will undoubtedly be more things that come up, so stay tuned! We also asked for people who may be able to help us clean and organize the house, or who are able to help us do some of the heavy lifting of furniture and whatnot. If you already signed up at the meeting, I have your contact information so no need to re-send. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, but may have some time to spare, please reply back with the best way to contact you. When we have times that we will need help, I’ll send out an email asking who is available at that time. Many hands make light work, as they say! There won’t be any “deep cleaning” required, more just organizing and a quick wipe to make everything fresh.
We are still awaiting word from the Embassy with an exact arrival time, but our family has been told that March is likely. Given what we’ve heard from other groups, this seems a likely timeline (most groups had their families arrive somewhere between 3-6 months after their medical, and our family had their medical done in November). Know that we continue to press for an answer, and we will keep you posted.
We feel confident that we will be ready, now that we have secured housing. As you all well know, that was a major struggle! We are thrilled to have found such an ideal home, especially given the timing! Midyan, Rasha and their children Marah, Mohammad, Mais and Taim will be so welcome here. In our correspondence with them, they continue to express their gratitude for the opportunity they are being given – to live in a place that is safe and where their children can go to school – they’re still in disbelief that strangers are willing to take on this project to change the lives of six people from a world away. All of this is because of you folks, so thank you.
Again, we cannot say enough how much we appreciate the unwavering and continuing support. Quite an amazing community we have!
Til next time & thank you as always,
The Steering Committee
We finally have news of our (relatively) imminent arrival of our family. We are expecting them in March/April. Thus, it is time to get together with folks who are interested in helping us prepare. We are holding a working meeting on Tuesday, February 6 at 7 pm at St. Michael’s Parish Hall in Baddeck. At this meeting, we will be discussing housing and therefore seeking volunteers for cleaning & moving crews, to help us gather household goods and furniture, and to help set up the home for our family. Further details will be discussed at the meeting, and we will be dividing and conquering tasks related to the above, so please, if you are able to help with those items, we very much hope you’re able to attend. The real work is beginning! If those things aren’t your forte, worry not, we will have many other tasks ahead, and will send out emails calling for support as we continue to prepare for the Eshmaeel’s arrival. We are grateful for your ongoing support.
We want to let you know that we’re holding a brief meeting on Thursday, November 23, 2017 at 7 p.m. at St. Michael’s Parish Hall on Chebucto Street in Baddeck. Please help us spread the word! Looking forward to seeing you then.
The Steering Committee, Syria to Baddeck
See article on delays with arrival of Syrian Refugee Family.
Click on link below;
Exciting news and progress (finally!). Our application to sponsor a Syrian refugee family of 6, currently living in Jordan, has been approved! The application has been sent on to the Canadian Embassy in Amman, Jordan. There, the family will undergo medical checks and security screens and assuming all goes well, they will be issued permanent residency cards for Canada and will be ready to travel. The timeline is still somewhat up in the air (a familiar tune at this point!), but we are hopeful for a fall arrival. Since we are fortunate enough to be in touch with the family, we will know when they get their medical and security checks, and will keep you posted. We will be working hard in the coming weeks to prepare for their arrival, so you can expect emails with updates as we receive them, and with calls for help when the need arises!
Thanks again for all your patience and support.
The Steering Committee
Sent: February 16, 2017 9:42 PM
To: Syria to Baddeck Group
Subject: Preparing for Refugees
At a meeting a few weeks ago, we shared a positive update: Citizenship and Immigration has informed us that the application for “our family” is now being processed! We hope to welcome the family of six to Baddeck sometime around September. The process is far from over, but we are remaining cautiously optimistic and are glad to at least have a time estimate.
Would you like to help? If you already indicated you would like to join one of the committees, you will hear from us soon. If you would like to join a committee, please let us know.
Our committee are:
Thank you all for you ongoing support.
The Steering Committee
Update on the Syria to Baddeck Refugee sponsorship Project.
Happy 2017! The Steering Committee will be holding a public meeting at St. Michael’s Parish Hall (across from the Needs store in Baddeck) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 24. If a cancellation is required due to weather, the meeting will be held at the same location the next evening, Wednesday, January 25 at 7 p.m. Thanks again for your interest and support.
On Friday June 10 th the Baddeck Lions Club will hold a Lobster Dinner at the Baddeck Community Centre. All proceeds will go to bring a Syrian Refugee family to Baddeck.
Hosted By the Baddeck Lions Club and the Syria to Baddeck Steering Committee.
Seatings at 5:30 PM and 6:30 PM.
$25.00 per person.
Saturday, May 7, 2016
St. Ann’s Bay United Church
Barrachois Bridge, Indian Brook
SEATING AT 5 PM
All proceeds will go to the
Syria-to-Baddeck Refugee Project
4 – Course Syrian Dinner
Beef or Vegetarian Option
Order Meat or Vegetarian option by contacting –
Marion 929-2270 email@example.com
Bonnie 929-2317 firstname.lastname@example.org
Murdena 929-2860 email@example.com
Peggy 929-2665 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello friends and supporters,
We will be holding a public meeting on Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. at the St. Michael’s Parish Hall (across from Needs on Chebucto Street in Baddeck). We have numerous issues to discuss and seek feedback on. Hope to see you then!
The Steering Committee
Hello friends and supporters of the Syria to Baddeck Project,
As you know, we have reached a point financially where we are able to sponsor a refugee family. At this stage, we need to secure appropriate housing, which has posed very difficult. Without securing housing, we cannot move forward, so we need your help! We are looking for a rental property which fits the following criteria:
– 3 bedroom house/apartment
– within a 10 km radius of the village of Baddeck
– available for a 12 month lease
If you, or someone you know has a place that you think might be suitable and available, please contact us via either this email, or through one of the Steering Committee Members directly at your earliest convenience. We thank you in advance!
Your Steering Committee
Athol Grant: 902-295-8281
Aynsley MacFarlane: 902-295-2407
Jen MacDonald: 902-295-0234
Alison Etter: 902-295-1047 (Alison will be away next week, in case you’re trying to get her)
Chris King (Chris is away for a few weeks, so best to save calling him for another time!)
Hello friends of Syria to Baddeck,
Another update from your steering committee! Firstly, we need to thank you all for your generosity, because we have a bank balance approaching $17,000 as a result of donations! This is incredible! Our “money people” have asked us to continue to remind people that cheques are to be made out to “Greenwood United Church” and “Syria to Baddeck” should be noted on the “Notes” line. They can be mailed to:
Greenwood United Church
P.O. Box 145
We are also planning to screen a documentary called “Salam, Neighbour” on Saturday, February 20 at 2 p.m. at the Bell Museum. Here’s the synopsis:
“Seven miles from war, 85,000 Syrians struggle to restart their lives inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. For the first time in history, two filmmakers fully embed themselves in the camp, providing an intimate look at the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis. From meeting Um Ali, a woman struggling to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers, to the street smart, 10-year-old Raouf, whose trauma hides just beneath his ever present smile, Zach and Chris uncover inspiring stories of individuals rallying, against all odds, to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors.”
The Steering Committee
From Syria to Baddeck
January 4, 2016
Residents, business owners, artisans, craftspeople of Victoria County,
SUBJECT: Victoria County Silent Auction: CALL FOR DONATIONS
The Silent Auction is one of several fundraising efforts underway to provide support towards sponsoring a Syrian refugee family to the Baddeck area. We, the members of the Victoria County Silent Auction Committee, are very pleased to announce the upcoming Silent Auction which will be held during the evening of Friday, February 5, 2016 at the Gaelic College. This event will be an exciting evening of music, speakers, fabulous auction items and prizes, all for a great cause!
Please consider donating something for the Auction table or for a door prize. It could be an item (object) or gift certificate (for a service or a food experience, or whatever you think is an appropriate donation). If you have questions about what might be appropriate or any other questions, see contact below.
Hopefully, all the donations for the auction table will be on hand at the College by the end of January (exceptions to this can be handled). Please fill in the tear off portion below and include it with your donation. Process and contact information are also below. A member of the Silent Auction Committee is prepared to pick up your item or gift certificate (contact below). If you wish to deliver yourself, take your item directly to the Gaelic College (drop off at the administration office next to the craft shop).
Thanks for considering a donation to this wonderful fundraising event in support of Syrian Refugee families!
The Victoria County Silent Auction Committee
SILENT AUCTION DONATION (attach this section to your donation):
Donor Name: _______________________________ Phone #: _____________________________
Description of item you are donating: __________________________________________________
Item is for: Auction Table __ OR Door Prize __
If item is for Auction, please indicate the Minimum Opening Bid: _______
Full Value of Item: _____
Silent Auction Committee Contact: Jim Eldridge – 902-294-0842 or email@example.com
Consider donating to the Syria to Baddeck fund. See information letter below:
Posted Dec 11 2015 from Craig Joseph
This message is being sent on behalf of Lifeline Syria Cape Breton to all of you amazing volunteers who have stepped up to the challenge of welcoming Syrian Refugees to Cape Breton Island. I know you are all anxious to help, and we are working on our end to figure out what the best way for you to help actually looks like. But for now we wanted to give you a bit of an update on where things are at right now with this process:
Thanks again for the ongoing support. The steering committee, now comprised of Athol Grant, Alison Etter, Chris King, Aynsley MacFarlane & Jen MacDonald, want to let you know what has happened since the last meeting.
Firstly, the proposal we worked on has been submitted to various levels of government and to ISANS. We have yet to have a response in terms of whether or not we will be chosen as a community that will receive government assisted refugees, but we are hopeful we will hear more soon. We have also shared our proposal with other community groups, including Lifeline Syria-Cape Breton so they are aware of what Baddeck has in terms of supports.
Andrew Brooks submitted an article to the current issue of “The Victoria Standard” (thank you, Andrew!), and we are hoping the Standard will be a medium that we can use to keep the community engaged in what we are working on.
In addition to that, a Facebook page was started – if you are on Facebook and haven’t joined already, we would encourage you to do so (and to invite your friends!). It’s definitely worth having a look. Here’s the link:
Offers of in-kind donations, volunteer hours and monetary support have been pouring in. Given the number of generous individuals who have offered monetary support, we have started to accept donations via Greenwood Church. Cheques or money orders can be made out to Greenwood United Church (address to follow), and marked specifically with “Syria to Baddeck”. We will then have access to that money & will use it to either support refugee families that arrive here, or those nearby. Tax receipts will be issued. Again, please feel free to share that information with people who may be asking. Here’s the address:
Greenwood United Church
As we learn more about whether or not we will be welcoming fully funded refugee families and while donations begin to roll in, we will continue to consider a blended visa sponsorship option. The basic premise is that a community group provides funding for the family for 6 months, and the government provides funding for the other 6 months. Once community funding is in place, this option can happen quite quickly, as the refugees eligible for this option must already have screening approval to be on the list for consideration. Other communities are already engaged in this process, so we are reaching out to see what that might look like.
Information on the application to bring two Syrian Refugee Families to Baddeck Area.(See below)
Citizen and immigration profile re. Syrian Refugees (See below)
Questions and Answers about Syrian Refugee Program