The Two Syrian Refugee Families Well-Adapted to Quebec

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The recent visit of Mireille (Miray Alfreeh) Allaham and her two children Mewra and Michou to Maison Jésus-Marie was a beautiful reunion with the Sisters. The first Syrian refugee family was sponsored by a group from the diocese of Longueuil which included the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM). This young family has integrated well into their adoptive country.

Recent photo of the Allaham family, Mewra, Mireille, Mousa and Michou.

They are now Canadian citizens.  The father Mousa, a cabinetmaker by trade, has launched his own business in this field. He works in the manufacturing of office furniture, kitchen furniture and others. The young family bought a house and now lives in Boisbriand.  Mireille, the mother of the family, works part-time so that she has more time to take care of the children, aged 11 and 6 (on June 30th). The youngest was born in Quebec.

With the help of the Longueuil sponsorship group, coordinated by Jacques Morin, a process is underway to bring in the family of Mireille’s sister. This family has four members, including the sister Pascal.

The Alhanout family. We recognize Michel, Marcel, Antoinette and Elyas.

The situation is just as positive for the second family of Syrian refugees, who have become Canadian citizens and are still living in Longueuil. The father Élyas Alhanout has been working at the Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue Co-cathedral since the beginning. His wife, Antoinette, works in a restaurant in the city while one of the sons, Michel (Majed) is studying medicine. The second son, Marcel (Marvel), is working in the digital industry. A sponsorship application is also underway to welcome the family of Mirna, daughter of Elyas and Antoinette. The Longueuil sponsorship committee will welcome a total of eight people with these two new families.

“The language issue is more easily resolved when families have children who go to school,” says Jacques Morin, proud of the journey of these two families who have shown great resilience.

The contribution of the community is important to facilitate integration

Looking back on this experience with Syrian refugees, Jacques Morin does not hesitate to point out that “The contribution of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (SNJM) has enormously simplified the sponsorship process for the two Syrian families.”

This contribution took various forms, from material assistance to encouragement, hospitality and financial support.  “I always felt that all the Sisters, from the youngest to the oldest, from the most alert to the most limited by health issues, were involved and proud of this project.  The families and the sponsoring group owe them a lot,” he adds. This support is still very concrete in the current sponsorship process.

Jacques Morin, coordinator of the refugee sponsorship committee in Longueuil at a meeting formalizing the Corporate stand for SNJM migrants in October 2017.

Since the arrival of the refugee families in 2016-2017, a few of the people in the sponsorship group have remained closely connected with them. “They have become friends,” says Jacques Morin, who continues to be very involved with the migrants. He also leads a francization group of eight students at Carrefour Le Moutier.

To promote the integration of these people from different backgrounds, he set up an intercultural and intergenerational project in collaboration with the people of the Paul-Pratt Residence in Longueuil. “It takes an environment to welcome and encourage more personal community encounters with migrants,” he says. His project is a response to the almost total lack of opportunities for these migrants to meet French-speaking Quebecers and build relationships.

During a recent meeting between students and people from the Paul-Pratt Residence, Jacques Morin was particularly moved when he saw participants exchanging big hugs at the end of the meeting. It was a good example of how important such encounters are for both migrants and local citizens.