Welcome for Syrian family
Syria Appeal has secured a house for the Al Sulaimans
The generosity of the Wicklow public will see a family who fled war-torn Syria start a new life in Wicklow town in the coming weeks.
Wicklow Syria Appeal is working closely with Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre based in Cork, to develop a pilot community sponsorship project to sponsor the family to live in Wicklow town.
Numerous fundraising drives have already taken place to help fund the move.
The Al Sulaiman family are arriving to Ireland through refugee family reunification. The family of nine escaped horrific conditions in Homs in 2013 and have been living as refugees in Lebanon ever since.
A private rented house has been located for the family in Wicklow town so they can rebuild their lives as part of the local community.
Mary Rose Devereux of Wicklow Syria Appeal said the level of support received by local residents and businesses has been hugely gratifying.
'Ger Fitzgerald designed our logo and Hopkins Hardware gave us an in-credit account. Wicklow Glass, Martsworth and local electrical suppliers have all been very generous in providing materials. We have had lots of volunteers helping to get the house ready and there has been no shortage of enthusiasm.'
The family consist of Khalid and Ilham and their seven children - four girls ranging in age from 10 to 21 and three boys ranging from five to 12. They are originally from Homs, Syria, and are now living in Mich Mich in Akkar in Lebanon. Khalid owned an electronics shop in Homs before the war. Since he's been in Lebanon, he has occasionally been able to find work as a driver but employment is scarce. The oldest girl was shot during their escape from Syria and has been unable to access proper medical treatment to remove the bullet fragments and reset broken bones.
The sponsored family is able to come to Ireland through family reunification as Khalid and Ilham's oldest daughter Majdoleen and her husband Marwan have been living in Cork for just over a year.
Nasc has been supporting Madjoleen and Marwan for the last two years in submitting the family reunification application, and since that was approved by the Department of Justice, in sorting travel documents and visas for Madjoleen's family for their journey to Ireland.
Explaining how Wicklow Syria Appeal managed to secure property for the family, Mick Nolan said: 'The owners were living abroad and the house wasn't being rented.
'We approached the owners about working out a very favourable agreement about a long term lease. There was a huge amount of work involved. For instance the chimney was in danger of collapsing.
'This is a private property so no one is jumping any queue regarding social housing. A lot of volunteer work is going into the house to make it habitable.'
It is hoped to move the Al Sulaiman's into the premises in mid-March or April at the latest. Wicklow Syria Appeal is also developing a guide-book on their experience for any other groups thinking of assisting a Syrian family.
'If every second town in the country was able to provide just one house then it would go a long way toward helping out so many families,' added Mick.
Wicklow Syria Appeal was founded in 2016 by the late Dermot Costello, who sadly passed away in January. However, Mary Rose believes his legacy will continue to live on as the family move into their new home.
'Everything that has taken place is a testament to Dermot's determination. He lit a fire under all of us to get this done.'