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Lacombe welcomes new Syrian family

Lacombe resident Bashar Al Omar, who arrived in Lacombe eight years ago with his wife Naema Zein Edding, greets newly-arrived relatives last month at the Edmonton International Airport. Star Newman/Acts of Beauty Photography

A Syrian family has arrived in Lacombe and has been joyfully reunited with relatives who settled in the community eight years ago.

Ibrahim Al Omar and Khadija Al Shebar arrived last month with their four young children, and they are eager to learn more about their new surroundings.

But the joy of being reunited with family here in town is the best part.

Ibrahim is the brother of Bashar Al Omar, who arrived in Lacombe eight years ago with his wife Naema Zein Edding.

The particulars of bringing Ibrahim and Khadija to Canada fell under the auspices of the volunteer-driven Lacombe Community Refugee Effort (LCRE), whose members continue to find fulfillment in seeing families settle into the community.

What primarily led to the organization’s launch was the Syrian crisis several years ago, said Marlene Ironsides, a representative from LCRE.

As mentioned, Naema and Bashar came to Lacombe in 2016 with their four children.

They were the first family that the LCRE worked with directly.

Seeing Ibrahim and Khadija arrive after so many years of working to see that happen is truly a dream come true for members of the LCRE, especially for Bashar and Naema.

The two families are living together until Ibrahim and Khadija find their own lodgings.

It was a long and exhausting 30-hour journey from their homeland to finally landing in Edmonton.

“They left Beirut and flew to Cairo, which is about an hour and a half — and they were there for three hours,” explained Naema.

“After that, they traveled from Cairo to Toronto, and that’s a long, long flight — about 13 hours. They were at the Toronto airport for seven hours. Then, they flew to Edmonton.”

Naema, translating for her brother-in-law, said that the family is very pleased to be here.

There are of course challenges to such a significan relocation, starting with learning English.

“They will need time, and we know that feeling,” said Naema, reflecting on her own family’s experience as newcomers.

She recalled the feelings of stress and the sense of isolation at first.

“I couldn’t eat for six days,” she said, adding that in those first few weeks, she missed her home country. But as time passed, Canada became home, too.

“The (LCRE) helped us a lot,” she said, adding that the organization’s assistance was always available.

Making friends through the Red Deer-based Care for Newcomers organization was also helpful, not to mention a terrific resource for learning English, she said.

Currently, she and Bashar are eager to help Ibrahim and Khadija adjust to the changes, and to feel comfortable in their new home.

“Every day we go out to walk around the neighbourhood,” she said, adding her brother-in-law is a welder and is eager to find work eventually.

Learning English is the first order of business, she said.

“You need people around you. People to take you out, show you the areas around here. That’s what helps, too,” she said, adding that the approach of summer is a definite plus as it opens the door to more easily get out and about.

Meanwhile, Naema said Lacombe has been a good and supportive place to call home.

She and Bashar laugh when reflecting on their first summer in Lacombe, as they found it chilly compared to their home country.

“I turned the heat up,” she said with a chuckle.

But ultimately, they are certainly pleased to be here.

She also recalled meeting other folks from Syria who lived in Red Deer, and how they had encouraged them to move to Red Deer as well.

But Lacombe, by that time, had become home.

“I told them no, because here it is quiet, and it’s a safe place. Our neigbourhood is also very friendly.”

Meanwhile, new members are encouraged to come on board with the LCRE to help make sure that the vision continues.

The need for this kind of work is only growing, said Ironsides.

Besides seeing firsthand the smiles of the new arrivals making Lacombe their home, it’s also been a wonderful experience to work with local churches in the community to see those dreams come to fruition.

“To see that many churches come together and work together is pretty cool.”

Star Newman/Acts of Beauty Photography
Star Newman/Acts of Beauty Photography
Ibrahim Al Omar and Khadija Al Shebar arrived in Lacombe last month with their four young children, and they are eager to learn more about their new surroundings. (Mark Weber/Lacombe Express)

Mark Weber

About the Author: Mark Weber

I've been a part of the Black Press Media family for about a dozen years now, with stints at the Red Deer Express, the Stettler Independent, and now the Lacombe Express.
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