Month Twelve

Month Twelve:

A year has past since Chady and his family arrived on June 19, 2016 and the family has made tremendous progress. In September Chady will be going into level 3 of the LINC Program (Language Instruction for Newcomers) and Zeinab into level 2. The boys, Hamza 11, and Yousef 8 will be going into grades 5 and 2 and the girls Sara 4, and Sadil 3 will continue going to daycare while Mom and Dad attend ESL classes. Life in Canada has been a challenge but they are doing very well.

Chady has managed to save enough funds to purchase a second-hand car and get his G2 drivers license. He is now able to transport his family of six, which has been a problem over the past year. He is actively looking for work but understands that he needs to continue working on his English.

We have helped negotiate a second year lease on the three-bedroom basement apartment in Etobicoke, which means they will be staying in the neighbourhood for another year.  The boys will be able to stay at Rivercrest Elementary School where they are receiving a lot of support from the principal and the teachers.  The family has connected with a number of Syrian families in the area and they are becoming very independent.

Our legal responsibilities have come to an end but we are still emotionally attached and we will continue to visit and support them. We would not have been able to do all that we have done without your support – thank you! We feel confident that we have accomplished what we set out to do a year ago: with your support we have been able to help Chady and Zeinab adjust to life in a new country, make new friends, and become somewhat independent.

 We spent a couple of hours with the family recently at a Canada 150 and Eid El Fitr Celebration (see photo above). It went well; we are now able to carry on conversations without the use of Google Translate. Chady is feeling much better about himself and is a lot more confident now that he has a car and is able to travel around the city.  He told us that his ESL instructor has invited him to attend LINC lever 4 classes that he will be teaching over the summer. It is a little advanced for Chady but he is going to sit in on classes – we couldn’t be happier!


Chady, Sadil, Zeinab, Hamza, Sara, & Yousef

Month Eight of our Journey

It has been a long time – my apologies.

 In the last month we have seen a significant improvement in the family’s ability to communicate in English. We are now able to sit and have a conversation without the use of Google Translate except for particularly complicated sentences. I think they are finally becoming comfortable enough and have enough words that they are not hesitant to try.

Chady and Zeinab are in school every day – Zeinab from 9-12 and Chady from 9-3. Zeinab comes home at noon with Sarah and Sadil – the full day is too much for the girls. They come home for lunch and a nap.

Chady helps Zeinab bring the girls home and then goes back to school. I talked with the school last week and was told they are very pleased with his progress. While looking over Chady’s school workbook on Sunday, I saw that the teacher had written a note to Chady saying that he was very pleased with Chady’s progress.

The boys Hamza and Yousef are also progressing very well. Hamza is starting a special LEAP program this week. He will be in a much smaller class where along with other students he will get the help he needs to catch up – he is Grade 4 but reading at about the Grade 1 level. He has done surprisingly well considering the fact that he has only had one year of school. Yousef too has improved significantly. He is taking medication for ADHD and it has made a tremendous difference; he is like a different child. At seven years old he has never been to school so it is much more of a challenge for him.

I purchased age/grade appropriate curriculum books at Costco for the boys this week, have set up a curriculum, and found a tutor to work with the boys four nights a week. I will see how this goes – it will be interesting. The boys have been thrust into a completely different culture. They left friends and family back home. They have little background in terms of attending school, studying, doing homework, etc., and no understanding of the English language when they arrived 8 months ago – not an easy transition.

 We are now in month eight of the twelve month commitment to the family and are starting to look at what needs to be done to help the family move to month thirteen when they will be on their own. Chady has been looking for part-time work in the afternoon or evening. It would be a great morale booster if he found something but for now, he needs to stay in ESL classes – English has to be his most important challenge for some time to come. We know the family will continue to need our financial support and our mentoring. As long as they are committed to working at improving their English skills and the skills needed to become self sufficient in Canada we will be there.

On the employment front, Lloyd attended an Employment Workshop for Month Thirteen on the weekend and we have some ideas that we will pursue but there is no simple answer. It seems that most of the work is found through networking and the goal still has to be a proficiency in English. Chady has been given a couple of leads by friends he has met and he did go to an interview last week but so far no luck.

 Again thanks to everyone for the support that you have given – we could not have done any of this without it.   I will try to remember to take some photos and post them – I get so busy I forget.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Welcome to a New Year!

We are all hoping that 2017 will bring Peace to Syria and the Middle East. It is difficult to hear of and watch the carnage coming out of Syria over past four and a half years.

Chady, Zeinab and the children are doing well. The family is progressing with the ability to communicate in English. Hamza the oldest boy at nine and a half is quickly becoming an interpreter when we need a more detailed explanation. Chady was commenting that Sara at 3 is speaking more English than Arabic to the family – she watches a lot of English cartoons on the computer. On our visit this past week, we found that we were able to carry on a simple conversation with minimal use of Google translates.  They have a long way to go but are doing very well.

 It has been a very busy holiday season. With the help of Mary Burrows, we took in an Arabic concert at Rosedale on December 18th and Santa filled Christmas stockings for the family on the 24th.   Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of photos – I have posted a collection of some that I do have. I must make a New Years resolution to take more photos 🙂

 I need to thank all of you again for your support and your patience with the pace of this journey. I wanted to have a function where I could introduce the family to our supporters but I have been waiting until they had a little more English – I was concerned about overwhelming the family. Having said that, their English is improving and once the weather improves, I will look for an opportunity.

We try to get out to visit at least once a week.  The family is always happy to see us.   We would be more than happy to have people visit the family in Etobicoke. They are living at 4 Kennebec Crescent – Islington Avenue just north of the 401. Please email me and I would be more than happy to work out a time for a visit with you and the family. Timing is difficult as they are at school every day from 9-3:30 so weekends are the best.  It is difficult to travel out after school because of traffic but if you are willing to do evenings, that could also work.

Thanks again – please don’t hesitate to email me with questions, or suggestions.  I am always happy to hear from you.


Dinner with the Almanaked Family


Chady and Zeinab hosted a wonderful dinner at their home in Etobicoke last night.  A meal of traditional Syrian food was served – with enough food to feed the whole neighbourhood.  I have posted a few photos here of the family, Gill & Andre, Margaret & Ramon, Melad, Azza,and their boys, and Lloyd & myself.  

I want to say a very big thank you to Chady & Zeinab and to everyone who has helped to make this all happen.  

We now move forward to helping them adjust to the upcoming winter.


Halloween Trick or Treating

Halloween Trick or Treating

 Thanks to the Dugas family, Gill, Andre, and their daughter Samantha and her family, Chady and his family experienced their first Halloween in their new country.

 Gill and Andre found great costumes for Hamza and Yousef and took them trick or treating in a neighbourhood that was “incredibly decorated”. They visited over 20 houses and had a wonderful time.

 After that they finished trick or treating, they joined Chady, Zeinab, and the girls at the Rexdale Alliance Church where they joined Melad’s family and a group of children who were taking part in a Harvest Celebration.  

 Thanks to the Dugas and Markos families, (and the weather) it is a memory that I am sure will stay with the family for a long time.halloween-2016-008halloween-2016-004halloween-2016-009will stay with the family for a long time.

Fall Update

Hi there,

As we move into the fall we continue to work at helping our family adjust to life in a their new home. The cooler weather has meant warmer clothing for everyone.  A trip to New Circles and Costco helped with that.  It is difficult to know how the family is feeling as English is still a bit of a challenge but they are working on it.   The “Say Hi” App on my cell phone has been an invaluable tool when difficult issues arise.

 Chady & Zeinab are attending ESL Classes and the boys are attending classes at Rivercrest Elementary School in Etobicoke. Hamza at 9 is in grade four and Yousef at 6 is in grade one. We are hoping that by Christmas they will be teaching their parents English. Kids are like sponges – they pick up a language pretty quickly. Sara and Sadil are both enjoying daycare and will probably be the first to understand the language.

Gill and Andre have been busy taking the family to medical and dental appointments, and whatever else is needed while Melad and Azza are working hard to ensure that the family is included in the community.   They have welcomed the family into their home and have become an important part of the family’s life – for that we are very thankful.  

I am disappointed that I didn’t get any photos of the Thanksgiving dinner we had in the party room of our condo – I was so busy cooking for 14 that I just didn’t think of it. However, I did get photos of our recent trip to the Syrian exhibit at the Aga Khan Museum. Thanks to Ramon for help with transporting them. It is always a challenge trying to transport mom, dad, and four kids anywhere. It was a beautiful day.


 The Museum has beautiful grounds and the staff were warm and welcoming.


Our trip to Aga Khan


Ramon playing a computer game with the boys


Lloyd walking the girls


Zeinab, Chady, & Hamza


Outside the Museum

Three Month Update

Hi everyone;

It has been a long time since I posted here – my apologies. Life has been very full with Rotary, Friendship Force International, visitors from Switzerland and Michigan, and our Syrian family.

 Chady, Zeinab, and the children are doing well. The boys, Hamza and Yousef are in school: Grade 4 and 1.   They are progressing very well and will be speaking English by Christmas. Sara and Sadil are enjoying daycare while Mom and Dad take ESL classes.

 ESL classes are a challenge for the parents who have been out of school for a long time. Chady attends class from nine to three every day and Zeinab nine to noon. I try to get out to help with homework but the distance is a bit of a problem and when I get there, there are always lots of other little things that need to be taken care of.

 Over the past week we have been out shopping for fall and winter clothing. We visited New Circles; an agency that offers “gently loved clothing” and we spent this afternoon at Costco getting warm coats, mitts, and essentials for the coming winter. Both the parents and the boys have a distance to walk to school and we want to make sure they will be warm.

 We have worked hard over the past couple of months to introduce them to the city but it has been difficult because two cars are needed to take the family anywhere. We have set them up with Presto Cards and tokens and have traveled on TTC with them in an effort to help them become more comfortable taking a bus. I can only imagine how intimidating it can be when you don’t have enough of the language to ask directions or questions.

 We took them to a picnic sponsored by the Arab Community Center in Centennial Park in August with the help of Margaret and Ramon and just before school started Gill and Andre took the boys to Canada’s Wonderland– a very exciting trip.  Melad and Azza, have continued to help with translations and support and we thank them very much for that.

 I will be hosting a social evening here in the party room of my condo building some time before Christmas and look forward introducing them to their supporters. I have been waiting for the family to become a little less overwhelmed by all of this before putting them into an uncomfortable situation. Lloyd and I have guests from Belgium arriving in October so it will have to wait until our guests leave.

 I would like to thank all of you again for all of your support and for your patience with my lack of communication.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions.  I can alway use your support.







Update on the Almanaked Family

Wow! Just a little over a month since Chady and his family arrived and so much has been done thanks to the Dugas family and Melad and his family.

 Melad is a newcomer to Canada himself. He has been here for three years, speaks Arabic and has been helping other newcomers to settle in the Rexdale area.  He began working with Odyssey to Canada as an interpreter – making phone calls to the Almanaked family when they were still in Lebanon and he worked hard with Gill & Andre to find accommodations for the family before they arrived. Since the family’s arrival Melad and his wife Azza have been there every day to ensure that the family understood the situation and helped to make them feel welcome. Melad and his family quickly bonded with the family and have become friends and a tremendous support  – they live within a five-minute walk of each other and visit frequently.


Chady, Melad (in white) and the boys playing soccer at the local park

As for the Settlement Process, the family has settled into their three-bedroom apartment in Etobicoke; they have completed all the necessary documentation for permanent residency, and have completed all the required settlement process steps – too numerous to list here. They have all had medical exams, vaccinations; and necessary counseling. The boys are just completing a two-week summer camp which has really helped them with English and making friends in the area and have been registered for school in September.

Chady and Zeinab have been enrolled in ESL, which unfortunately does not start until September.   In the meantime, I have put some ESL programs onto the computer for them and they are working at picking up a few sentences. It is all going well. If you have any ideas for programs that would help, I would be happy to hear from you.

I sent out a notice about the possibility of holding a picnic to introduce the family to supporters but I only heard back from a couple of  people.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe the timing is the best – many are away or up at their cottage so I may try again in September. Any ideas would be more than happy to consider.

I want to send out a huge thank you once again to all who have supported us – we could not have done it without you.  We will continue to work with the family to ensure their smooth integration into the community.









Settling In

As work continues to help Chady and his family settle in, Gill, Andre, Melad, and Azza are there to support them.  Last week Gill, Andre and Melad took took family to the Rexdale Medical Clinic for their first general medical exam.  Unfortunately, the vaccines were frozen so they have to return this week to complete the vaccinations  and get blood tests done.  They also stopped at the supermarket where they shopped for groceries and Chady got to use his debit card for the first time.

On Canada Day, Lloyd and Norma took the family to Harbour Front for their first Canada Day celebration.  It was a fun filled day and great experience for the family.  I have attached photos for the events and I want to thank the Dugas and Markos family again for all the support and work that they are putting into making sure that Chady and his family have the very best health care and feel welcome.




Monday’s Blog

Hi everyone,

Gill, Andre, and the team were busy today completing the appointments and introducing the children to the local librarian.  You can see by Gill’s blog below that a lot was accomplished and the family is beginning to relax and settle into their new home.

Monday’s Blog

Monday, June 27. Chady took the boys to school. At 9:15 a.m. Andre, Gill, Samantha and Melad collected Chady, Zeinab, Sara and Sadil, along with all their important documents, to go to Service Ontario at Bloor and Islington. Samantha and Gill filled in the OHIP applications for all our family members and produced the required documentation. Samantha and Melad talked to the Agent at the counter throughout the process. It was a long process but the Service Ontario Agent was extremely helpful, patient and went out of his way to move our applications along. We then completed the forms for Chady and Zeinab to get Ontario ID cards. Payment was $35 each. We then went to register Chady, Zeinab, Hamza and Yousef at the Toronto Public Library. This also was a long process however it was all completed and library cards issued. The Library Manager was extremely anxious to assist along with her staff – at one time she was kneeling down to open books to show Sara the colourful pictures. We drove our family back to their home around 1:15 Boys were collected from school at 3 p.m. Today, we noticed that for the first time Sara and Sadil were smiling when they saw us coming and reached out for a pick up. The smiles were with sparking eyes and giggles.