A welcoming committee was on hand at the Canadian Rockies International Airport Wednesday, to greet the latest Cranbrook resident after his long circuitous voyage halfway around the world.
Members of the East Kootenay Friends of Burma (a local group that sponsors and settles refugees from trouble spots around the world) and others finally met their latest friend, 25-year-old Amaren Solomon Dawit, who came from Eritrea to his new home in Canada, after a years spent in a refugee camp.
The small country, on the Horn of Africa, has long had a troubled relationship with neighbouring Ethiopia, which has resulted in the curtailment of basic human rights among its citizens. Amaren had spent the last five years in an Ethiopian refugee camp, under very hard conditions. But on Wednesday, he arrived in Cranbrook, on a drizzly but balmy (for Cranbrook) spring day.
Volunteers have been preparing the ground ahead of his arrival, arranging for living accommodations, clothing, employment possibilities, and a social milieu to help the young man get acquainted with his new community — so far and so different from East Africa.
Soccer is Amaren’s thing — he is a passionate and highly skilled player. A recent injury has laid him up for the time being, but he has every intention of hitting the local pitches as soon as he can.
EK Friends of Burma and the Cambodian Support Group have settled many individuals in Cranbrook and Kimberley — from Burma, Cambodia, Colombia and elsewhere. This is the first Eritrean to have been sponsored in such way. This year, Canada has identified Eritreans has one of the groups of refugees it will focus on to help.
Barb Ryeburn, with the EK Friends of Burma, says the group is responsible for Amaren’s living costs for one year. Any donations to this end are welcome (a tax deductible receipt is provided). And anyone who wishes to get involved, to help Amaren get settled and to feel at home, can call 250-426-6559.