Syrian refugees welcomed to Pictou County

Published on February 7, 2016

STELLARTON – They walked through the front doors at the Museum of Industry, no doubt tired and unsure of what the future has in store for them.

Despite the uncertainty, their lives are remarkably better than they had been in a long time.

Bassem Elmythiab, his wife Rania and their four children – the oldest 16, the youngest only nine months.

With a few of them holding signs of welcome, about 100 people, many of them from local groups working to get Syrian refugees established in Pictou County, greeted the family around 5 p.m. Saturday afternoon after a shuttle bus had picked them up at the airport in Halifax. Also present were local politicians including New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan who welcomed the family who will be living in his town.

The family had spent roughly 30 hours in Montreal following a flight from Jordan, after months of living in a refugee camp, with about 60,000-70,000 other displaced people. Even their flight into Halifax was delayed, but it got here eventually.

Desperate for safer, more stable lives, they left their homeland to start new lives because of the war and strife that has gripped Syria.

“It was miserable, hard,” Bassem said through an interpreter, when asked to describe life in their final days living under the constant cloud of war in Syria.

“Shortage of food, shortage of water. You could not sleep at night because of the bombs and the snipers.”

The family has received temporary lodging at a home in south end New Glasgow as they work to get established in their new lives.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done and thank you for the reception,” said Bassem, a blacksmith by trade.

Sarah MacIntosh-Wiseman is the chairperson of Safe Harbour, a group that has been working since last September to make Saturday’s events a reality. Along with several others, she made the trip to the airport to greet Pictou Count’s newest residents.

“Most of us have full-time jobs and all of our spare moments have gone into this,” she said.

Some of the volunteers event a part of Saturday making some last-minute tweaks to the family’s new home.

“This has been like a full-time job but it is for a wonderful cause,” said MacIntosh-Wiseman.

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser was one of those who greeted the new arrivals.

“It a day that makes you proud to be from this community,” he said.

“I can’t believe all the hard work that these community organizations have done.”