The Lacombe Community Refugee Effort (LCRE) continues it’s work to reunite members of the Al Omar family.
After Syrian refugees Naema and Bashar Al Omar, who came to Lacombe in 2016, were reunited with Naema’s sister Khadija last year — the group is now working to bring Bashar’s brother Ibrahim Al Omar to Canada. Ibrahim is currently in Lebanon.
To begin the process of bringing Ibrahim and his family over, the LCRE — which now consists of five churches in Lacombe — recently held their first fundraiser Living Free With Hope with Pastor Marco Ste. Marie. The group needs to raise roughly $40,000 to support Ibrahim and his family for their first year in central Alberta.
The transition to Canada, according to Naema, is a difficult transition but one that is the difference between living and dying compared to what her family went through in Syria.
Naema added Lebanon, where Ibrahim is now, isn’t welcoming to Syrian refugees.
“It is hard in Lebanon right now. The government there doesn’t like Syrian refugee. They told us to go back to our country, which is difficult. Some people go back to Syria under pressure and the government will put them into the army or in jail,” Naema said.
She added when her family — which includes her two boys and two girls — came to central Alberta, there were language and cultural barriers they had to overcome.
“When we came here, we just had the committee (LCRE),” Naema said. “We had zero English. People would speak to us and we would just say yes or no. My kids went to school. I have four kids — two girls and two boys. The girls are in Grade 2 and 3 and my girls are in Grade 1 and pre-k.
“My husband chose to go to work. He doesn’t like to stay home. He started work at a chicken farm.”
Naema said Lacombe has been a welcoming place for her family, but she sometimes feels homesick and worries about her family in Lebanon and Syria.
“I have a big family and my husband has a big family. Some of his family came with us, but just one of my sisters came with me. The rest still live in Syria,” she said.
Being reunited with Khadija helped Naema miss her family a bit less.
“That was so happy. We were together. I was able to see my sister again and live in the same city. That is a big thing for me and her too,” Naema said.
She hopes Bashar will soon be able to be reunited with his brother the same way she was with her sister. She hopes people continue to support LCRE in order to bring her family together.
“If you support, you get people from war to this safe place. You are bringing someone from death to life. For us, it is very good and we are so happy. The people of this community are like family to us and we are so happy to have them support us,” Naema said.
The Al Omars were offered the opportunity to move to Red Deer to join the Syrian refugee community there, but Lacombe is now home for her family.
“I told them no, I like Lacombe. It is a quiet city and the people here are very good. People smile and say hi and ask if we are having any problems,” she said.
Naema thanked the committee for supporting her family continually since they arrived in Canada and she one day dreams her children will attend university in Canada. She added her sister Khadija, who is a hairdresser and single parent, hopes to own her own salon one day.
LCRE Representative Marlene Ironsides said the process to bringing Ibrahim’s family to Canada has already begun, but it can be a lengthy process.
“We sent the application in January and that is what is happening. The government last year said they would speed up the process. It was three years to bring Khadija. The government has said they are trying to get that down to a year,” she said.
Ironsides said they were thankful to those who supported the first fundraiser and promised there will be more news shortly.
“There are various ways to support. we have five churches involved now but it is also community members. If someone wants to donate, they can get a tax receipt from any of the churches,” she said.