The Newness of this Life

Alsar Zarour

Syria Alberta — Mar 2024

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When Alsar Zarour’s mother, Mannal Khchfa, stumbled across a UNHCR office in Turkey after fleeing Syria, she didn’t know her family would be thriving in Calgary eight years later.

Alsar shares their story.

“It’s a real thing, that you can reunite with a new life in a new country, and that happened for us. When we landed here, we didn’t know what we would be facing, we didn’t know who we would be meeting, and we didn’t know what was waiting for us outside that airport. On the airplane, all we could wonder was what was going to happen next.”

“It was December 1, 2016. The temperature was -30 and from the plane we could see that we were landing in a white land.”

While finishing up their landing papers, an officer said to them; “You have people waiting for you outside. They have been waiting for you for the last year.”

We looked at each other and said, “Who would be waiting for us?”

He went on to say, “They have welcoming signs with your names and your ages and they know everything about you. I’m going to take a picture of you and show it to them outside.”

“He was explaining, but we didn’t get it, we didn’t know it. The other families knew already in Turkey that they had their sponsors waiting for them. They had their houses ready, they called them on video call. We were sitting alone on a chair in the airport seeing others meeting their sponsors.”

Left to right: Jake Wiebe, Elsie Wiebe, Mannal Khchfa, Alsar Zarour, Karen Janz
Left to right: Jake Wiebe, Elsie Wiebe, Mannal Khchfa, Alsar Zarour, Karen Janz

First Mennonite Church in Calgary had put together a committee to welcome the family. Every detail of their arrival was planned, and they waited with anticipation. Among the group were Jake and Elsie Wiebe and Karen Janz.

“We just love this family so much,” said Janz, “when we could finally put faces to those names, when they came out there was overwhelming joy. We were so happy to see them here. And now so happy to see them thriving. We are totally blessed by this family coming here. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it. Every single hour that we spent, I would do it over and over again.”

Mannal, Alsar and her two brothers passed through the doors and the family saw their sponsorship group holding signs, with expressions of excitement and relief.

“They hugged us, they said welcome to Canada, you’re here, you’re fine. We’ve been waiting for you! When we got into our house that night, I will never forget, they asked us if we have everything we need, and we didn’t even know we had a house. We had spoons, everything was there, we didn’t need anything. We only came with our clothes. Any help that a person needs in this country, we received it.”

“We still live in the house that they got for us, until this day.”

Now, years later, Alsar is in her first year of a Bachelor of Social Work at Mount Royal University. Her brother owns his own business and Mannal is learning English.

“I love this country and decided to become well educated to give back to this community that gave to me when I came here, starting from zero. And it’s beautiful to me, that I have ears listening to me, knowing why I am here today, knowing what my family has done for me and what my sponsors have done for me. They are family.”

Although the sponsorship period ended a year after their arrival, the friendship that has grown between the family and the sponsorship group continues. Elsie and Jake, who live a few blocks down the street, stop by for visits regularly, and they share in the joys of each other’s lives.

“God works in mysterious ways, and each step worked towards where we are today,” says Jake.

MCC Alberta was also able to sponsor Alsar’s uncle and his family to Calgary last year. The family includes an 8, 7, 6 and an 8 month old.

“Now they have a future, they are attending school for the first time in their lives, they are encouraged when they wake up in the morning. They love the newness of this life.”

As to sharing her story with MCC, Alsar simply states; “This is the least I can do. Helping community is not a job, it’s you.”

a family of three embrace at an airport

Migration and Resettlement

Since 1979, MCC Canada has worked with private sponsorship groups to help refugees start a new life in Canada. 

In Alberta, MCC works with local churches and partners to assist newcomers in the resettlement process.


Contact us to learn about refugee sponsorship in Alberta