WESTVILLE – Last Wednesday marked a monumental moment for one family in Pictou County, as Warm Hearts welcomed the refugee family they have been working to bring to Canada. The Al Shaltan family was welcomed with smiles, hugs and Canadian flags as they got off the plane in the Halifax Stanfield International Airport last week.
Originally from Iraq and arriving from Turkey, where they have been waiting and hoping to make it to somewhere they could call home, the family was beyond thankful to the group for the opportunity to settle in Canada.
“It’s almost surreal, the reality is upon us,” said Lennie White of Warm Hearts, who has been waiting in anticipation for that day for three years now. He shared that on the way back to Westville from the airport the three family members continued to thank the group for everything they have done.
“You are our people now,” said Sleaman, the father of the three-person family. He was joined by his son Sinan who is in his 20s as well as his wife Selma. “We’re very happy.”
So far, after having only been in the county for less than a day the family who had originally lived in a large city were very happy with their new home.
“I like it here, maybe too much,” laughed Sinan about his new home. Despite the long journey here the three were all smiles and pleased to meet everyone that arrived at the small get together and welcome at the Westville Council chambers.
The family added that they certainly feel more at home and free here than their time during Turkey as they found that it was not particularly welcoming to Christians, making them wear any crucifixes they had under clothes or not at all. Otherwise, the symbols of their religion would be taken from them. Sleaman added that he often felt like they were second class citizens.
So far the family is off to a good start with their new friends and home and even have enough English skills to help them get by as they pick up more.
“It’s a warm feeling for warm hearts,” said White.
Selma, Sinan and Sleaman Al Shatan were all smiles last Wednesday as they were greeted by community members to Pictou County.