Five years ago, a Canadian family helped a family of Syrian refugees resettle in their community. Now, that migrant family is supporting them while they are quarantined by bringing them and their elderly family members bags and bags of groceries.
Author Robin Stevenson, of Victoria, British Columbia, told InsideEdition.com she and her family had gone on vacation to Mexico earlier this month, and were eventually caught there when countries began taking more drastic measures to curb the coronavirus outbreak, and the Government of Canada encouraged all Canadians to return.
Because they couldn’t change their tickets, they ended up staying there until their planned flight back to Canada and then were asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon their return.
“We hadn’t really anticipated that or prepared for that, so we hadn’t stopped [for] groceries or food before we left,” Stevenson explained. “We had enough, we weren’t starving but Marwa heard from my parents that we were in quarantine and surprised us by showing up at our front door with bags and bags of groceries.”
Marwa Ataya and her husband Salem Ajaj own a Middle Eastern grocery store in the neighborhood that is still open amid the coronavirus pandemic, and even extended the kindness to Stevenson’s elderly parents who live nearby.
“They delivered groceries to my parents and brought them fresh fruits and vegetables,” Stevenson said.
Even though Stevenson and her family are nearly out of quarantine and able to get supplies on their own soon, “[Marwa] called a couple days ago and said, ‘I’m at the store, do you need anything?’ and brought me a huge bag of flour. They’re very very generous and very kind.”
Stevenson, who is currently self-quarantined at home with her partner and 15-year-old son, explained that they came to know Ataya, Ajaj and their young children through Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program in 2015, which allowed Stevenson’s family, along with a couple of other families in their community, to come together to help facilitate Ataya and Ajaj’s arrival to Canada – whether it is helping them prepare their documents or helping them find a home.
“My involvement has been around the kids so over the summer when the kids were off school, I took them to camp, or the beach,” Stevenson explained. “My dad was helping get their business set up.”
She said she hoped the family’s generosity in a difficult time encourages people to come together to support each other.
“We need to stand together globally and extend a hand and open doors to people,” Stevenson said. “I’m hoping to show how much refugees contribute to the community they resettle in. It’s not a question of one country helping a group of people, but a very mutual relationship and just how much Canada has benefitted from the refugees that have come here.”