We were only sure that our Syrian friends had arrived after two of the four boys shyly pointed at their names written in Arabic on hand-painted signs as they glided down the escalator at Ottawa’s airport. After weeks of frantic preparation, our Syrian family was finally here.

The family of six from the Homs region of Syria – including four spirited lads between the ages of four and 10 – were weary but warmed by the wide-eyed welcoming committee from Group Five on Jan. 13. They immediately settled into their home in central Ottawa and began the process of acclimatizing to a new country, new culture and the joys of Ottawa in January.

Sledding, skating and a 67s game steeped them in the winter’s wonders. Enrolment in school for the boys and English classes for their parents began the process of preparing them for their new lives in Canada.

Challenges undoubtedly lie ahead. They have been uprooted from their lives, forced to flee from their homes and left family and friends behind because of the ravages of war. But smiles have increasingly crossed their faces as they’ve come to realize they have friends in Canada that they never realized existed.