Jack Brezina: The Wiso family is home
|By Jack Brezina - Contributing Writer | October 19, 2017|
The room was abuzz with the warmth and friendly chatter that comes with a family reunion. The smallest children skittered about the crowd snatching cookies from the table and the older ones bounced from adult to adult as they gathered in clusters to talk. It was the sort of gathering where everyone felt right at home.
The event had been organized to mark, somewhat belatedly, the first anniversary of the arrival of the Wiso family from Syria to our community. It was on Sept. 19, 2016 that they were greeted at Pearson International Airport by a group of volunteers from Haliburton. Lifted out of the uncertainty and violence that troubled their home country, they came to find a new life in Canada.
While months of planning had made the volunteers somewhat hyper now that “their” family was finally arriving, there was also a tiny flicker of doubt in some that perhaps Haliburton was too rural and integration could be difficult for a family isolated from their language, culture, food and customs. Nothing could have been further from what has unfolded over the past 13 months.
After several weeks of getting acclimatized to their new home and routines (and with dire warnings of the winter soon to arrive) the family quickly integrated into the community. With medical visits, shopping excursions to the local stores and for the children, attendance at school, the Wiso family members soon found themselves part of the ebb and flow of Haliburton. On all sides, they met people from the village and beyond, who welcomed them with open arms and open hearts.
One year later, the children are involved in sports at school and at a community level. Their home, near Head lake Park, has provided them with a panoply of diversions throughout the year, the latest being the Hometown Hockey bedlam that moved through town last weekend. The parents, Yousef and Ghiyab, both have found seasonal employment, which accelerated their integration into the community. The oldest son, Hasan, also has a part time job. And the oldest daughters Bayan and Rihab were working during the summer months and have now returned to high school. The second youngest, Rama, is enrolled in junior kindergarten this September and the other children Faysal, Hozayfa, Mohammad and Ghadir are attending school. The youngest, Nasime. (she is only two) is still at home awaiting her chance to attend school.
Much of the buzz in the room last Saturday was about everyday things … work, school, sports, play and, well, just life in general. It was also a recognition that the Wiso family have become a part of our community and a salute to the many people who helped to ease that transition. While that support will continue informally, their on-going integration will rest with the family as they continue to find their place in our community.
Those early doubts about the isolation the family would experience have pretty well been put to rest. More than anything else, the message from the anniversary celebration last week is simply, the Wiso family is home.
Jack Brezina is a contributing writer for The Highlander.