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Refugee family's arrival nearing

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Kathy Mueller is keeping her fingers crossed that one of two Iraqi families the community is sponsoring will arrive here later this fall.

The local committee, which first raised money to bring the family here and then made preparations for them, had expected the family to arrive this past spring.

It's now cautiously optimistic after learning last week that the visa office had informed the family, which currently is living in Beirut, Lebanon, they should be able to come to Canada within two months.

“Last February, the family was told by someone at the visa office that they'd be here by May,” Mueller told to the Times late last week.

“So then we got an apartment and we got everything ready—all of the furniture and all of the things that had been donated—and we set up the apartment and we started paying the rent in May,” she noted.

"And they didn't come.

“And they didn't come in June," Mueller added. ”And we were thinking, 'Okay, they've got to come soon. We don't want to give up the three-bedroom apartment because there are six of them and apartments are hard to find in Fort.'

“And we had set it all up," she stressed. ”The beds are made. The towels are all washed, the dishes are washed.

“Everything's ready.”

Mueller then contacted local MP Don Rusnak's office, which called immigration for her. They, in turn, said they're still checking on the family members' backgrounds but everything else had been completed.

“So we thought that that was all finished and so did they,” she remarked.

"And then just this week, Bashar, who is the dad, was able to contact somebody within the visa office and they asked him to bring in new photographs of everybody for travel documents.

"And they told him that they should here within two months.

“Now, they've told them that before, so it's very difficult for us to get really celebratory because we're being careful,” Mueller conceded.

She noted “it's very difficult for the committee to wait and really know what is going on.”

“Immigration can't really check on the offices in Beirut and see what every single person is doing on every file," she noted. ”They just don't do it; otherwise, I'm sure nothing would get done at all.

“So we have to be patient.”

Another positive development is that a man one who was a refugee two years ago, and was sponsored in Thunder Bay, has become an interpreter for the local committee.

He also has become quite good friends with Bashar, said Mueller, and should be very helpful once he and his family arrive.

The local committee first got together nearly two years ago (Oct. 17, 2015 to be exact) to start planning to sponsor a refugee family here.

Before Christmas, it had raised more than $60,000.

The committee then sent away the application and a family of six was assigned, consisting of a father, mother, a teen daughter, and three sons.

Because it had surpassed its initial fundraising goal of $35,000 significantly by January, 2016, the committee then decided to fund a second refugee family—not aware it would take so long for the first one to make it here.

Mueller noted the second Iraqi family also has completed all of its immigration requirements and currently is undergoing background checks.

Waiting for nearly two has been hard for the volunteers, she admitted.

“It's been really difficult as stewards of the money," Mueller remarked. ”We've had to make some difficult decisions but I think we've made them as best we can, in good conscience, and we're just being really hopeful—and praying hard.

“Since we've started this, some of our members have moved away from town," she noted. ”Some members have gone through cancer.

“I've had two grandchildren born," she added. ”Life just keeps going on.

“But we're being hopeful, and we're ready for them except for the last-minute things,” Mueller stressed.

“That's where we're at.”

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