Smithers woman Mona Awil and Bulkley Valley Refugee Sponsorship Group spokesperson Pauline Mahoney are preparing for the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Smithers this weekend.

Smithers woman Mona Awil and Bulkley Valley Refugee Sponsorship Group spokesperson Pauline Mahoney are preparing for the first Syrian refugees to arrive in Smithers this weekend.

Family Day reunion for Syrian refugee families in Smithers

The first Syrian refugees to arrive in Smithers will be greeted by their local relatives this Family Day long weekend.

The first Syrian refugees are set to arrive in Smithers this Family Day long weekend after an extensive community campaign to bring them to the Bulkley Valley.

Saied Assaf, Eviet Danbar and their children Gessika, 15, Jolie, 12, and Yousef, 5, will start their new lives in Canada when they step off the plane in Smithers on Monday.

When the family arrives, they will be reunited with Saied’s cousin Mona Awil and her family, who live in Smithers after emigrating to Canada 12 years ago.

They were sponsored to come to Canada by the Bulkley Valley Refugee Sponsorship Group, which fundraised more than $80,000 with a series of community events last year.

The BVRSG has also been approved by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to bring a second, unrelated family to Smithers, but it is not known when they will arrive.

The group will be responsible for helping both families with everything from accessing social services to translation and finding new jobs.

Volunteers with the group spent last weekend moving furniture into rental homes they have secured for the refugees.

Awil and her husband Akram Khalil have been helping the sponsorship group get ready for the refugees’ arrival, but they have more preparations to do at home.

Awil’s sister Dalla and nephew Sami have also been approved to come to Canada through the refugee program, as has Khalil’s brother, also named Saied, his wife Nazha Karkor and their children Eyad, 21, and Rawad, 11.

Unlike Assaf’s family, they were not sponsored by the BVRSG. Instead, Awil and her husband Akram Khalil paid to apply for them to come to Canada as refugees.

Both families will be escaping situations where their lives had been endangered and uprooted by civil war.

With Dalla and Sami arriving on Sunday, and Saied Khalil expected to land in Smithers next week, Awil said she was overjoyed. It is seven years since Awil has seen her sister.

“It’s very, very exciting, [I’m] nervous too,” she said.

“Gosh, I didn’t see them in forever and now they are all here and sleeping in my house.”

Although there will be a lot to do to help the families start their new lives next week, Awil said they would make time to sit down and share stories when the families first arrived.

More to come in the Feb. 10 edition of The Interior News.