Saturday, December 19, 2015


Every time his three sons headed off to school, Sarkis Apkarian would say a prayer.
Zawenawedian Dawdian, 2, is held by his mother Mario
and was one of a group of sponsored Syrian refugees
who arrived in Toronto on Dec. 16, 2015.

(Michael Peake/Toronto Sun)
“We prayed to God to protect them,” said the 55-year-old father, who landed in Toronto last Tuesday with his family and dozens of other Syrian refugees.
Back in Syria, his sons were afraid and unable to sleep at night.
“We need peace, we need to live, we need to study,” Apkarian said. “Now we come here, we want to live in Canada, we want to work here.”
Apkarian was one of a plane-load of refugees who were greeted and fed at the Armenian Community Centre on Wednesday. The Toronto Sun spoke with some of these newcomers about their hopes for life here in Canada and their thoughts on Canada ending its involvement in the bombing mission against ISIS.
Back home in Aleppo, an explosion by their house injured Apkarian. There was no water, no electricity, and the family could not sleep at night with the bombs.
“We don’t know who is fighting with whom,” Apkarian said.
An electrical engineer with 28 years of experience, he is cheerful, bubbly, and looks forward to rejoining the workforce.

Here’s what Syrians — some who just arrived in Canada and others who have been here for months – had to say at the Armenian Community Centre on Wednesday:

Zohrab Tutungian and his parents can’t wait to start a new life.
“I will start from zero but that’s OK as long as I’m safe,” said the 38-year-old.
Originally from Aleppo, he and his mother and father arrived in Toronto via Lebanon, where they lived for more than a year.
“I’m grateful for the Canadian government and for the Armenian community, that they gave us the chance to be here and to be safe,” he said.
When asked if Canada should continue its bombing mission against ISIS, his reply was swift.
“Yes, they should continue to bomb, without stopping,” Tutungian said. “Because ISIS is against humanity.”
Nanor Shohmelian steers clear of the news now.
“I’m only interested in the humanitarian side of the whole story because it’s been too much for us,” she said.
The 35-year-old mother of two landed in Canada last year with her husband.
Her aunt privately sponsored the family, to rescue them from the rapidly debilitating state of affairs in Syria.
The turning point was a mortar shell that hit so close to their home, it shattered all the glass inside.
“The sound was so frightening,” Shohmelian said.
Now, she doesn’t want to think or read about the utter chaos they left behind.
“We lived two years in the war in Aleppo, it was so hard,” she said. “So I keep myself away from this whole political mess.”
Kevork Keshshian and his wife are just grateful to finally be in a place where their one-year-old daughter can be safe.
Speaking through a translator while cradling his daughter Tsolin in one arm, the 33-year-old father is all smiles.
“He’s just very thankful to be in Canada and to be in a safe place where he can maybe give a better future for his child, obviously somewhere where it’s safe, where he doesn’t think his kid can die,” Anna said.

Friday, December 18, 2015



Contact: Reverend Connie Thompson, Project Chair: (604) 853-0801
Donald Strangway, Communications Chair: (778) 808-5835


The Abbotsford Interfaith Movement (AIM) has spearheaded a project to bring a refugee family to Abbotsford. The project has been met with great enthusiasm, and has brought together more than 20 people of diverse backgrounds, talents, and religious affiliations. This particular initiative of AIM is called the Interfaith Refugee Project (IRP).
Some of the services IRP will provide to our refugee family include helping them fill out paperwork and liaising with appropriate government agencies. We will also provide support in arranging medical, dental, and counseling services, in addition to setting up their housing, helping with their budgets, and continuing to fund-raise to cover their living expenses.
IRP will draw on the many resources throughout Abbotsford’s diverse community, knowing that our “City in the Country” has so much to offer. Some of our local business leaders have already pledged their support through generous discounts on household items that must be purchased new. Through everyone’s hospitality and ongoing assistance, we hope our newly-arrived family will feel the warmth of an Abbotsford welcome.
This generous outpouring will ensure a smooth transition into the community, as our family adapts to their new life in Canada. But although our project will provide for their basic needs, we anticipate that an initial language barrier will create some challenges. And until we know the actual language requirements of our sponsored family, we will be unable to cover this one remaining element. With that in mind, we are inviting bilingual people in the community to volunteer as potential translators, so that in a timely manner we can ultimately match our family with appropriate language resources.
Our group always welcomes new members, so if you or someone you know can offer any kind of assistance with this humanitarian project, please contact us at your earliest convenience. For more information or offers of help, please e-mail us at:
If you can’t commit your time, but you still want to help, financial donations are gratefully accepted, and donations of $20.00 or more will receive a charitable donation receipt.
Donations of Cash, Cheque, or Credit Cards*:
Make cheques payable to:
Gladwin Heights United Church
Designated for Interfaith Refugee Project (IRP)
3474 Gladwin Road, Abbotsford, BC V2S 7B4
Other ways to donate include:
For e-transfers, our e-mail address is:

Visit our blog page often for updates and photographs of our sponsored family:   

*Although we are able to accept cash, cheques, e-transfers, and Credit Cards, we would prefer not to use Credit Cards because of the banking charges they would incur. Our goal is to keep our administrative costs under 2%, so that more than 98% of donations will be used to support our refugee family.

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