NeST Update -- our Syrian Family June 2018

It has been a little over a year since the Al Jbawi family arrived in Canada. We are now in “Month 13” – a time of transition as our year-long sponsorship term officially ended in mid-June. Where are we now, and what happens next?
First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who has helped with this endeavour. It was a longer process than we first thought and teams and volunteers underwent transitions of their own, but what an amazing experience it has been and what a wonderful family we are now blessed to know. We hope to invite everyone to celebrate with the Al Jbawis later this summer with a potluck picnic – details t.b.d.
Learning English is crucial to a successful future in Canada. Both parents are on track to finish English Language Learning (ELL) Level 3, an important benchmark for employment, by this summer/fall, with plans to continue their ELL studies either full- or part-time as circumstances allow. The children made great progress at school this year. Ahmad is an exceptional high school student and ranks in the top of his class. This family has worked hard at their studies, with superb support from NeST’s ELL and Homework Team. Arabic interpretation is still required on occasion but the whole family is now able to converse in English and they are eager to hone this skill. At the family’s request their NeST friends will continue to offer homework and conversation ongoing, in a less intensive form. The Household Goods and Financial Mentoring Teams were among the first to work themselves out of a job (mostly). NeST is available to consult as needed but the family does their own shopping and manages their household finances including paying bills online with the computers provided by the Technology Team. The Health Team had a busy year (cautionary tales from other sponsoring groups about dental expenses proved accurate) but Al Jbawis have been connected with resources as needed and are now managing their own health care. The family uses Calgary Transit regularly and with the purchase of a second-hand vehicle in June are completely independent from a Transportation point of view. Socially, they very much enjoyed celebrating their birthdays and other special events with NeST over the past year and hope to continue those connections. They have established friendships in both Arabic- and English-speaking circles.
With respect to NeST finances, thanks to congregational and individual donor support and fundraising initiatives NeST finishes the official sponsorship term with a remaining ‘nest egg’ of about $8000. NeST would like to echo the family’s gratitude for this support and what it has meant to them in establishing their new life in Canada. Khalil started part-time work last fall in addition to full time ELL and has been transitioning to financial independence since then. The family has an ambitious but solid plan to balance breadwinning and education going forward.
NeST Team Leads met June 24 and decided to discontinue the regular monthly support payments to the family as of the end of June (for July 2018) but to keep the NeST account open for the next 6 months (or until funds are exhausted) to use as a transitional contingency fund if needed. This will include offering to help the family with ongoing dental treatments that their health plan is unlikely to cover. With strong agreement from Andre of the Diocesan Refugee Committee, NeST also decided to help the family pay off the remaining balance of the government “travel loan” they have been liable for since their arrival. There was a government policy change during the long processing delay before they were allowed to travel to Canada so although Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada initially said they would cover the airfare for Syrian refugees, by the time the Al Jbawis arrived they were presented with a bill for about $6600. We were not successful in appealing this charge so the family has been making instalments and the loan is about half-paid. Clearing that debt will help establish their Canadian credit rating and help them move forward financially. With this shift in focus to transition, please note that NeST is no longer requesting monetary donations for ministry with this family at this time.
Friendship will continue, however, and so will less formal social and language support. The family is eager to stay in touch. If you would like to be involved, contact a NeST-ian or your parish office.
NeST is now entering a time of discernment. This was a first venture into this kind of work for many of us and we learned so much. The NeST Admin Team would love to hear your thoughts, as
donors/volunteers or from the wider congregation. What worked well and what should we do
differently? Do we have the time, energy and resources to try another sponsorship? If not, what are other ways we can continue to answer Our Lord’s call to “welcome the stranger”? Your input will help us determine what to do with any NeST funds remaining in December (e.g. donate to the Diocesan Refugee Committee, use as seed money for a second NeST sponsorship, other?).
Thanks be to God for bringing this family safely to Canada to build a new life here, and for all those who have helped it happen. Pray for peace and for all those whose lives continue to be disrupted by violence and persecution.
Respectfully submitted,
Jennifer Solem (for NeST)