By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Fadi Salloum cries bittersweet tears as he thinks about his new life in Edmonton.

“I feel the same love and connection that I used to have back home,” said Fadi, speaking through an Arabic translator.

Life in Homs, Syria - where Fadi, 35, and his wife Michlen Khoury, 32, grew up - was beautiful until civil war broke out. Now, as the city lies in ruins, ravaged by bombings, the Salloum family has rebuilt their lives here, with help of the people of St. Albert Parish.

“We were dead and now we’re alive. It’s like a new beginning, a new life,” said Michlen, as the family prepared for Easter.

Twenty parishes are among the groups that have worked with Catholic Social Services to welcome 296 Syrian refugees to Edmonton since December 2015. Eleven parishes are awaiting the arrival of another 162 Syrian refugees.

“Some of the parishes have sponsored before and are now awaiting their second family,” said Paulette Johnson, refugee sponsorship co-ordinator for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.

The St. Albert Parish community raised $53,855 to sponsor Fadi, Michlen, and their sons, Michel, 12, and Milad, 6. They arrived in Canada less than five months ago and now live in an apartment in north Edmonton.

In the weeks since their arrival, parish volunteers have helped the family set up their banking accounts, access health care, and obtain government documents. The boys are enrolled in local Catholic schools, and Fadi and Michlen are taking English lessons. Fadi obtained his driver’s licence and the family now has their own vehicle.

In Syria, Fadi had his own business, installing decorative gypsum ceilings. He still has designs he would like to complete, and dreams of starting a business.

The St. Albert Parish refugee committee is looking for a journeyman plasterer and drywall installer or tradesperson to act as a mentor to Fadi, as he transitions into the workforce.

The Salloums see their old social life in Homs - where they had lots of friends who visited each other every day, hosting loud parties and dancing – being recreated in Canada.

Last month, the family hosted a thank-you dinner for 70 people in the basement of the church. Fadi and Michlen prepared all the food. The highlight of the meal was Kibbeh, a Syrian dish of meat and bulgur.

“They are wonderful cooks,” said Colleen LaForge-Griebel, a member of the St. Albert Parish’s Syrian refugee committee. “It’s like we gained a new branch of our family.”

The Salloum family plans to make Canada their permanent home. Despite the ongoing civil war, Fadi and Michlen have talked about visiting Syria in the future, but their oldest son Michel refuses.

“He’s been very affected. He doesn’t want to go back there,” Fadi said.

Letting go of the past is especially difficult when the Salloums are by themselves. The family looks forward to Sundays when they attend church, and host guests in their home.

They say their Christian faith has played a role in their ongoing healing after the trauma of leaving Syria behind.

“We would not have made it here if God wasn’t with us,” said Fadi.

To help Fadi as he transitions into the workforce, contact Geneva Lander at mglander@telus.net or call 780-458-8649.