Syrian Reflects on First Year in Prince George
Prince George, B.C. – Thankful.
The words of Rose Tohme when asked to look back and comment on her first year in Prince George.
It was one year ago, this week that Rose, her husband Nael and three children arrived to great fanfare in the city. The first of a great wave of what turned out to be roughly 25,000 Syrians across the country.
Since that time, Rose and Nael have found jobs (Rose at the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society) and her three children are studying – her daughter at UNBC, her son at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, and her youngest at Cedars Christian high school.
They’ve also moved from an apartment to the roomier confines of a house they now rent.
Did she expect things to work out this way?
“Not that quick. But I can feel the hand of God and this is what’s happened. A very nice place in Prince George to be settled in. A nice country in Canada and we are all settled now.”
Seven families – or over 40 Syrians – settled here though she concedes some are struggling looking for jobs before their government benefits run out.
“It’s hard for some who haven’t gotten jobs. But now at IMSS we are helping them to find housing through BC Housing. One family will move into a home the end of this month and three more have applications pending.”
But despite her family’s success she notes the civil war in Syria continues to weigh heavily on her mind.
“It’s the same picture as when you’re hungry, starving, and then someone takes you to a restaurant. Just by yourself and gives you a wonderful meal,” says Tohme.
“But how can you enjoy it? Every bit aches because it reminds you of your children. So, this is the same thing happening with us now. There are families in Syria with no electricity and feeling cold. Nothing to warm themselves and here I am enjoying the warmth and electricity.”
Currently she’s in the midst of trying to sponsor her sister who’s in Syria and her son who lives in Dubai who couldn’t get into Canada because of his marriage.
But despite those challenges she’s very thankful for all the help she’s received.
“Thank you to God and thank you to Canada for this wonderful country that welcomed us and gave us an opportunity to live in it,” says Tohme.
“Thank you to the prime minister who made this decision to provide a good place for all the Syrians. Thank you to all the MLAs. Thank you to the mayor who welcomed us at the airport and thank you to every person in Prince George. We are enjoying it here because of your love.”