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Syrian refugees living in Summerland say their children will now have brighter future

SUMMERLAND — Summerland was the first Okanagan community to welcome Syrian refugees and now, the town is prepared to help more.

The Albetars arrived to the valley back in March and say they continue to be touched by the outpouring of support.

“[Syrians] are escaping just to have a life for their kids. It is the main reason to leave everything behind, to risk everything, just to try and get out,” says Hussam Albetar.

The Albetars were displaced from their war-torn home four years ago.

They were visiting a family member when the war erupted and were not able to return for a year. When they did go back home, debris and wreckage was all that was left.

They fled from town to town, seeking safety. They registered with the United Nations as refugees and waited in Jordan for two-and-a-half years before finally being accepted by Canada.

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“[I have] heard about Canada, but nobody actually dreams of coming to Canada,” says Albetar.

Albetar has found temporary work at a local nursery, his wife, Nadya Alsagher, is studying English at Okanagan College and their three children are attending school.

Nadya Alsagher says people in Summerland have been extremely welcoming and hopes Canadians continue to open their doors and hearts to Syrian refugees.

“You’ll be helping [the refugees] establish a future, where right now, they really don’t have any.”
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Many people in Summerland say they are ready to help.

At a public meeting Wednesday night, about 80 people attended to learn about the humanitarian crisis and to express interest in helping.

“Community leaders have to stand up to say: we want refugees in our community. I think that’s what government is waiting for, to see who stands up to say ‘include us,'” says Doug Holmes, the meeting’s organizer.

As a result of the meeting, a steering committee has been formed.

Another Syrian refugee family will be coming to the south Okanagan next week. The Albetars say they will be at the Kelowna airport to welcome them, just as they were welcomed eight months ago.