While the two refugee Syrian families have since departed Lewisporte, the memories remain for Naz Faidullah.
Faidullah, originally from Iraq, has resided in Lewisporte for nearly 14 years. When two refugee families were sponsored and brought to the central Newfoundland town in 2017, Faidullah was asked to help locals break the language barrier.
“I was trying to teach the people that would be working directly with the Syrian basic words – good morning, good afternoon, this is yes, this is no,” Faidullah said. “It was to make them feel welcome.
“I did it to help my town, to represent my town. I donated my language and my time.”
Faidullah’s involvement with the families grew in those initial months, guiding them through the grocery stores and helping translate notes from Lewisporte Academy.
“I would take them aisle by aisle, item by item. The mother would send me pictures with a note from school and I would tell her, ‘This says there is no school tomorrow,’” she said. “I was in their lives, you could say, 24/7.”
In March of 2017, Mohamad Moufleh and Fatima Al-Mahamid arrived in the province with their two children Rayane Moufleh and Moussa Moufleh.
However, the children’s grandmother, Talika Morjan, was the first of the family to arrive – coming to Lewisporte in the summer of 2016.
Faidullah says she and her husband would often spend time with Morjan during those long months she awaited the rest of her family to arrive.
While she played this intimate role during their time in Lewisporte, Faidullah turned down the opportunity to tutor the refugees in English.
David Antle, regional settlement coordinator for Association for New Canadians in Grands Falls-Windsor, says there are at least six people in the central region currently involved with providing ESL (English as a second language) services.
“Most of the tutors are retired or substitute teachers,” he said. “They work with the family for 50 hours over a 10-week period, so very often they grow a close relationship with the family.”
As well, Antle and the association hosts a “conversation café” held at the Third Place Café in Grand Falls-Windsor once a week.
“It’s an opportunity for (refugee) to get out, socialize and practice their English,” said Antle. “The people we provide services for are appreciative of everything we do, particularly with the ‘conversation café.’”
No families in Lewisporte since
In hopes of finding better employment opportunities, the Moufleh family left Lewisporte for Ontario in 2018. Faidullah says there was some discussions around them opening a restaurant in Lewisporte, but after some research it was determined to not be economically viable.
According to Antle, the Syrian families that settled in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor still reside in the communities today.
While there has since been no other refugee families settling in the Lewisporte area, Faidullah continues to cherish her experience helping the community during that period.
“It was a nice experience for me. It was the first time in my life to do something not in the medical field,” she said.