Small screen, big welcome

Josh Pennell
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Short film carries simple message for Syrian refugees: welcome home

It's a short film with a very simple message, but for the refugees arriving from Syria, it might be the greatest welcome mat that could ever be laid out.

Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Syrian native Eyad Sakkar at Harbourside Park in St. John’s on Thursday afternoon. Sakkar and others have put together a video welcoming the new Syrian refugees to St. John’s, most of whom began arriving at St. John’s International Airport on New Year’s Eve. 

Simply put, it's warm welcome messages from people here to the refugees arriving from Syria.

"You like sittin' around drinking tea and tellin' stories? You'll be happy here," writer and actor Andy Jones reassures.

"All of us at Natural Boutique would like to welcome you home," Jennifer Shears, owner of The Natural Boutique on Water Street, says with her daughter, Aspen, in her arms, who then blows a kiss.

"We are so happy that you're coming to live here," The Fortunate Ones say.

Rather than sounding repetitive, the messages in the video reaffirm the authenticity of how the people in the video feel.

Eyad Sakkar is one of the people behind the short video. Sakkar moved to this province from Syria in 2008 to attend university, and is now married and working here. His brother also lives in the province. The video is kind of a warm hand extended to the people now arriving from a country brutalized with conflict.

"The response has been amazing," Sakkar says of the video.

"I guess when something comes out of the heart it reaches the heart and I guess those people who put in the time to do this video, they care. And when someone does this for a reason - for a good reason because they want to help - I guess we chose to help, as well."

Sakkar and his brother, along with the Association for New Canadians, are also raising money to sponsor two Syrian families. They have a Go Fund Me page with a goal of $30,000 that has already raised about $20,000, but their ultimate goal is to raise about $70,000 - the amount they'll need to sponsor two families or a total of nine people.

In the meantime, the video featuring a variety of people such as Allan Hawco and Chris Andrews, and people from businesses such as Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food and Fogtown, is being spread far and wide.

"It's overwhelming because we got messages from different provinces saying that they love it and they are going to do the same," says Sakkar.

He adds that the people in and behind the video were just presented with the idea and then encouraged to say or take it wherever they felt like.

"You get different opinions, you get different personalities, you get different talents behind the video," Sakkar says, adding he is very thankful to all those who took part.

More can be learned about the video and the group on the Facebook page "Bring Syrian refugees to NL."


Organizations: The Natural Boutique, Go Fund, Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food

Geographic location: Water Street, Syria

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Recent comments

  • Could not be prouder
    January 08, 2016 - 13:45

    As my adult children said, after watching the video, Dad, I have never been prouder to be a Newfoundlander!!