Robert’s column

Robert Barron column: Immigrants in the Cowichan Valley are an asset

If they are successful, the family would be a great addition to the Valley

I hope the members of Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship Church who are currently in Thailand advocating to have a family emigrate to the Cowichan Valley are successful in their efforts.

Pastor Norm Sowden and church member Charles Lukas will be in Thailand until early February doing their best to clear the many diplomatic log jams that are preventing the five-member Javed family from coming to Canada.

I had the pleasure of meeting Sowden and his church’s refugee committee last August when they began their ongoing campaign to help the Christian family.

The caring and giving natures of these wonderful people shone through as I interviewed them.

The Javeds fled their home country of Pakistan after being threatened by a militant Muslim group for assisting Christians and other persecuted minorities in the largely Muslim country.

The father is now being held indefinitely in an overcrowded detention camp for refugees in Thailand after his visa expired, and the rest of the family is in hiding to avoid being sent back to Pakistan.

The members of Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship Church have raised more than $26,000 in less than five months to help the family get to Canada and begin their new lives here.

The church’s refugee committee already has some experience with such projects after successfully sponsoring a Syrian family to come to the Cowichan Valley four years ago.

But with the emigration process for the Javed family moving at a glacial speed, Sowden and Lukas have flown to the Asian country to meet with Canada’s ambassador to Thailand and other officials to try and move the process along.

If they are successful, the family would be a great addition to the Valley as the father has a MBA and the mother is a nurse, and all members of the family already have a good understanding of English.

In 2016, when I first started work at this paper, I interviewed the seven-member Qaddour family from Syria that had just emigrated to Canada after escaping the turmoil in their homeland, thanks to a group of Valley citizens who sponsored the family to come here.

They were, of course, initially nervous in their new hometown on the other side of the world from where they came from, with a completely different culture and language from their own.

I had to communicate with them through an interpreter, and they seemed lost and apprehensive about their new circumstances.

But when I visited them again just a few months later, it was apparent they had settled in nicely and seemed quite comfortable in their new surroundings.

Amazingly, six-year-old Zaed, who looked frightened and hid behind his mother when I interviewed the family soon after they arrived, began talking to me in perfect English.

He said the family had taken English classes and were quickly mastering the language.

Zaed said he was excited to soon begin school, along with his siblings, and make new friends.

The father, Mustafa, who had worked as a welder in war-torn Aleppo, told me in broken English that he had been successful in landing a job in a woodworking facility in Duncan.

He said it took awhile for the family to adapt, but moving to the Valley was the best decision they had ever made.

I can’t wait to interview the Javed family when (if) they arrive and monitor their progress in the Valley.

Immigrants such as these add a lot to the flavour of the area, and I think it’s a delight to have them here.

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