Posted by Bayan Al Mansour on Nov 19, 2018
Judy McKnight introduced and welcomed Bayan (pictured here with Carolyn Ketchenson), the oldest daughter in her family at 19 and who is finishing secondary school in English, Math and Sciences with a goal to enrol in the Health Sciences program at Loyalist.
 
Bayan described Syria as a beautiful country and when it was peaceful, their friends and family celebrated with each other, but in March of 2011, war began.  Bayan was in Grade 8.  They listened to the news and were afraid.  The voice of guns was terrible.  They would hide in the cellars.  Bayan's father decided to move to Lebanon so they packed up what they could and Bayan had to leave her friends behind.  They were grateful for shelter in a small tent with a bathroom and kitchen in the refugee camp in Bekaa.  There was a new school built in honour of Malala Yousafzai, a private school for girls living in refugee camps between the ages of 14 and 18.  Bayan spent two years in the camp, it was very hot and her father worked outside the camp.  An uncle travelled to Canada and they learned that he would help Bayan and her family come to Canada.  So for the second time, Bayan had to say goodbye to her school and friends she had made.  They flew to Germany, then to Canada.  Canada is a land of peace and their sponsors helped them move into an apartment on February 14th, Valentine's Day, a white, snowy day.  They have been here for two years and eight months and have learned many things.  People have made them feel at home.  Bayan has made new friends at Albert College, has improved her English and visited Canada's Wonderland.  Bayan's goal is to become a nurse as she was positively influenced by a nurse as a child.  Bayan and her family are very grateful to be here in this beautiful country with beautiful people.  They have been given a great gift.
 
Dr. Ian Sutherland, a member of the United Syrian Family Support (Belleville) spoke to the Club about their role in helping today's speaker, Bayan Al Mansour and her family get settled in the area.  A great deal of assistance was provided by Al Koudsi as interpreter, Keith Stansfield who opened the doors to Albert College for Bayan when she did not fit the school system, the generosity of Sam Brady providing a bicycle to Bayan's cousin.  One and three quarters of the population of Canada or 65 million people are displaced and 21 million are refugees, forced to flee because of personal risk, nations having to move across a border becoming stateless.  The numbers speak for themselves.  Five million of 15 million people in Syria are refugees.  They have human faces, hearts and souls.  Bayan was one of the first families to arrive in this area in 2015.  Her father, Ahmed Al Mansour, her mother and two siblings were the first Syrian family to land on Canadian soil when they immigrated here in December 2015.  Once the family cleared immigration, they ceased to be refugees and became residents of Canada.  There are four families here now including 13 first cousins and grandparents.  Bayan is the only one of 23 who could speak English.  Dr. Sutherland expressed his pride in our community, with three United Churches working on the project.  Bayan's father worked construction in Lebanon in a family stucco business.  There are family relations who are still in refugee camps in Syria.  There is no predictable water supply and Dr. Sutherland encouraged the Rotary Club to consider sponsoring a family or two.  The experience provides hands on tangible value for Rotarians, unexpected friendships, new and different social exposures and real life recruiting processes and IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.
 
Doug Peterson thanked the speakers and for sharing what happens beyond our giving.  An inspiring story.  Gratifying to see this country open their homes and hearts.