FMA Canada: Accompanying Eritrean refugees’ integration into society
In 2009, VIDES Canada Volunteers International received a request through Sr. Elizabeth Purcell, (CND provincial), to sponsor three siblings: Veronica Sultan Baryay , Rita Sultan Baryay and Timnit Sultan Baryay, three refugee young women from Eritrea who had escaped to Khartoum, Sudan. They were registered under UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and living in shelters.
In 2010, VIDES Canada Volunteers International started the process for sponsoring these three young women through ORAT (the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto) and with the help of Fr. Alex Osei (Spiritan). It was a new project for VIDES Canada, therefore Sr. Jeannine Landry (VIDES Canada's Director) attended several Formation Sessions offered by ORAT.
On August 23, 2013 a request was sent to Immigration Canada to add their younger brother, Hermon Sultan Baryay as a dependant of his sister, Rita and to be granted to join in the resettlement with his sisters. Meanwhile Timnit, the older sister, officially declined to continue the process. Hermon was then accepted by Immigration Canada to join his sisters.
Under this sponsorship program, VIDES Canada Volunteers International became responsible for the three of them for one year. We organized several fundraising events to raise money
( $12,000 Cnd amount was suggested to sponsor each refugee ) in order to cover the expenses incurred throughout the year, such as; groceries, clothing, transportation, etc.. Not knowing the date of arrival, we began to prepare by collecting different items such as clothes, furniture, computer, cell phones, heater etc.
Finally on February 24, 2014 at 6:35 a.m., Sr. Jeannine and Rina Grella (a Member of the Board of Directors of VIDES Canada Volunteers International) welcomed the three siblings at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. We welcomed them with presents and trinkets such as; a Canadian hat, chocolates, Canadian mugs, maps of Toronto and Ajax, and a booklet with the essential information for their resettlement in the Canadian Society.
An official welcome party was organized in the home of Diane Dias, who graciously offered her basement free of charge to the three refugees for one year. Veronica performed the coffee rite to express their thanks and joy to the Canadians welcoming them with so much warmth and enthusiasm. The VIDES members and friends brought different Canadian dishes while the Eritreans offered their specialty, "injera." The evening was a moment of learning about each other and of listening to a part of the sad story of these young refugees. They conveyed so much faith in God, the Blessed Mother and tons of courage and resilience during the long wait of five years in Khartoum shelters for refugees without knowing if and when they would eventually be accepted in Canada. After some time to adjust to their new country, Veronica and Rita started looking for work while Hermon, who was only seventeen, was registered in the local High School. All three have made an effort to learn English well.
On February 24th, 2016, they celebrated their second anniversary of their arrival in Canada. They have made so much progress. Veronica is now registered at York University in Toronto and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Businesses and Finances, BBA. Rita is taking English and Math classes as preparation to apply to Humber College Nursing Program, and lastly, Hermon will graduate this year from High School and pursue a College degree in Auto Mechanics.
They are now living in an apartment in the North of Toronto not far from our community. Rita and Hermon work part time jobs to pay for their expenses. They are now completely autonomous and very thankful to be in a free and democratic country where they can enjoy peace and freedom. They are always happy to share small and big steps of their life journey. They know they can always count on us, the Sisters and VIDES Canada. In spite of all the fatigue, uncertainties, challenges, and sometimes discouragement on either side, we can now say that it has been an effective experience of solidarity and growth.