Overwhelmed and very grateful

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Photo Caption: The Almakhoul family, with Barbara Nenadovich and Rev. Paul Vellakunnathu, at the Diocesan Anniversary Dinner, November 25th. The family was welcomed to Canada by their sponsors from St. Andrew’s Parish in October.

Everything that Wael Kadmous and Mania Atiya knew was being torn apart by a civil war pounding their Syrian city of Homs.

“The war began, and people just started killing each other,” said Kadmous, 28, in a translated interview at the Knights of Columbus Council 1394 hall in St. Catharines.

“We never thought to carry any weapons or to fight with or against anyone.”

As the conflict escalated, water and food became scarce. People literally could not go to work, he said.

“So in 2012 we had to flee to Lebanon to stay safe, and get away from that war.”

They became refugees and stayed in a safe-room not much larger than the bathroom of their Port Dalhousie apartment where they recently moved.

“It was quite a challenge. We left our family, friends, and everything we knew,” said Kadmous, noting the couple had their child Mia, now 2, as stateless refugees. Because of the war, there was fear of Syrians in Lebanon, so it was also hard to find employment there.

Kadmous — whose family came to Niagara on Halloween on Mia’s birthday — is among a number of Canadian refugee families sponsored through the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines.

Acting as the local co-ordinators was a refugee team from Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church in Port Dalhousie that included its Catholic Women’s League.

Supporting them was the Knights of Columbus, who helped raise $30,000 needed for the private sponsorship.

Roncia Zinati — a Star of the Sea parishioner — said when Atiya was to give birth, they registered with the United Nations to get needed help and hospital care.

“We were looking for a family to sponsor for our church and had a contact who was in Lebanon, worked with the UN and who recommended this little Catholic family,” said Zinati, who also served as a translator for the Sunday interview.

“Watching this unfold, seeing everybody come together to help this family has been just remarkable,” Zinati said. “So many people have taken on so many different roles.”

Council 1394 Grand Knight John Nixon said the help was “part of what the Knights of Columbus do — we support local needs like this.”

“When we heard about a Star of the Sea team doing this, we were happy to help.”

The family was invited to a weekend fundraising breakfast organized by the Knights at their Church Street hall.

Fortunes have rapidly changed for the couple who expressed gratitude for the assistance they’ve received from the church, and its partners.

Kadmous, who is a carpenter, was recently hired by Enns Cabinetry in St. Catharines.

“It feels pretty good — and safe,” Kadmous said in English and with a laugh.

Recently, his brother Saaer and his family have also come to Niagara as sponsored refugees by St. Vincent de Paul in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“I am super grateful for everything everyone has done for us,” said Atiya, also in a translation. “I could never imagine it would be so easy to settle here when you are surrounded by so much love, affection, kindness and generosity.

“And I am overwhelmed and very grateful.”

The couple said Canadians are the “most generous and kind we have every known, or met.”

donfraser@postmedia.com

Twitter: don_standard

Source: http://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/2016/11/13/overwhelmed-and-very-grateful

Photo Caption: The Almakhoul family, with Barbara Nenadovich and Rev. Paul Vellakunnathu, at the Diocesan Anniversary Dinner, November 25th. The family was welcomed to Canada by their sponsors from St. Andrew’s Parish in October.