The Upper Canada College-sponsored Syrian refugee family finally arrived in Toronto and was greeted at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Monday as part of the College’s “warm welcome” initiative.
UCC started raising funds to sponsor the family in 2016, but almost two years of paperwork delayed Samia and Mohamed Farastaki’s arrival with their children: Baraa, 5; Ahmad, 7; Kenana, 14; Amani, 16; and Abdullah, 18.
Mohamed Farastaki is a trained chef who has ambitions to start a restaurant. He and his family will learn English so they can assimilate easier into their new homeland.
“UCC is eager to show the Farastaki family a warm welcome and, with the continued support of the UCC community over the next year, start them off successfully in their new lives,” Principal Sam McKinney wrote in a letter to members of the UCC community. “Whether it’s a week’s worth of groceries or school supplies, we’re asking for your support to get the family settled and off to a fresh start here in Toronto.”
UCC students are also doing their part through a variety of activities, including the creation of welcome baskets brimming with useful items.
Year 6 classes are making themed quilts for the Farastaki children. Each student is creating a 10-inch by 10-inch fabric image depicting his interpretation of his class theme. These squares will be sewn together into quilts by Middle Division art teacher Nancy Preston, who’s leading the project, and Middle Division coordinator Barb Kawasoe. UCC parents and grandparents have helped the boys in the classroom by showing them how to thread needles, stitch, embroider and sew.
More than 30 UCC community members have volunteered to assist in the Farastaki family’s relocation effort.
“I would like to thank the UCC community for their warm-hearted support of this initiative,” wrote McKinney, “one of the first of many initiatives that demonstrate our Strategic Directions of learning, community, service, pluralism and wellbeing.”