From Syria with love

By Jenn Watt

Oct. 25 2016

Last week a few journalists got to sit down with Yousef and Ghiyab Wiso and their two youngest children to hear about their experience as refugees from Syria who have become permanent residents in Canada.

Yousef described the family’s decision to leave their three-storey home in Aleppo Syria during the brutal civil war that has killed 280000 Syrians in five years. The most recent assault on the city killed 400 people – 100 of them children.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said last week that the siege in the city qualified as “crimes of historic proportions.”

In 2012 the family of 10 made the difficult decision to leave their hometown when fighting broke out.

They became agricultural workers in Lebanon – housed in tents alongside farms – with little food for their family and no education for the children.

Then one day the United Nations contacted them about applying to come to Canada and everything changed.

While Haliburton is a beautiful place safe from bombs and bullets flying through the air it wasn’t until Yousef articulated their experience here that we could know just how they felt about being the only Syrian people for 100 kilometres.

To our collective relief we heard on Friday that the Wisos feel embraced by Haliburton.

Yousef thanked the community for their kindness saying we had become like extended family. (He also thanked the Queen and prime minister.)

He reported that his children are making friends enjoying school and learning English.

The actions of this community (and the United Nations and Canada) in assisting the Wisos is profound in a way I can’t adequately express.

What this family has endured is beyond what any human should experience. Poor treatment lives destroyed home lost forever. Children without food to eat and parents without the means to feed them.

It was hard on Friday to look at one-year-old Nasime Wiso gurgling happily and crawling around with her tiny socked feet and knit sweater and imagine her within the destruction of Aleppo. Imagine her amongst the rubble dust and blood of war. How could we do this to each other?

And so it fills my heart with joy and sadness simultaneously to hear this family’s story and know that they are safe and have been treated well but also knowing that so many others are still left behind.

The Wisos teach us about the power of kindness and the horrors of war in their simple presence.

They notice our efforts and appreciate our concern. We have made a difference.