It's back to school tomorrow and while many kids are groaning about that prospect, one family of Syrian refugees just can't wait. The Abbara family arrived February 6th, just 7 months ago. They are already embracing everything Canadian including the back to school tradition.  We tend to take things for granted when this is the only life we've ever known.  But for Bousy Al Ibrahim and her six kids, even the start of a new school year is a reason to celebrate.

Standing in Bousy’s garden, surrounded by eggplants and tomatoes, it is interesting to note how one can sow the seeds of life with just a few basic ingredients. Bousy Al Ibrahim knows all about that.  The young widow uprooted her family from war-torn Syria, landed in a refugee camp for two years in Lebanon, then set down new roots in Ottawa, anchored by a private sponsorship group that has become the family's lifeline.

“I left Syria because of the bombs and for the children,” Bousy says in her broken English, newly acquired since arriving here.  When asked what she thinks of Ottawa, she says “beautiful, very nice.”

The private sponsorship group that is supporting Bousy and her family in Ottawa is called the Fraser Group, started by a couple of neighbours along Ottawa’s Fraser Avenue who wondered what they could do to help during the Syrian refugee crisis.

“Some of us have become so close to the family,” says Terry Smutylo, who spearheads the group, “that it is almost as though we are part of a new extended family here.”

Among the children, there is 14-year-old Mohamad, the eldest, who had to quit school in Syria to support the family when he was just 10 years old. 

“Yeah, it is hard to live over there,” he says.

Ehtidal is the oldest of the five girls, at 13.  She will start Grade 8 on Tuesday.  Aya is 10 and entering Grade 5, followed by Reem, who is 9.  Then, there are the 6-year-old twin girls, Amal who is going into grade 1 and Rahma, who has cerebral palsy and was recently at CHEO to undergo an operation.

“We admire the family so much,” says Smutylo, “not just for what they've done to get here, but what they are doing when they get here.”

And so, getting the six kids set up for school has become a group effort.  The school supplies, the music lessons, the magic of making that first day so very special.

“I’m going into Grade 5,” says Aya Abbara, “and I like math and gym.”

“I am very excited for school because tomorrow is the first day, my first day in a new school,” says Mohamad, who will begin high school on Tuesday.

For Bousy, it is what she had hoped for her children: a chance at an education.

“I love to come here (to Canada),” she says, “because I need a life for my children.”

For the members of the Fraser Group, it is a chance to change a life.

“It’s an interesting experience,” says Greg Barber, one of the members of the group, “because a lot of people would say you get more out of it than you give.”

And the group has more to give.  They are hoping to sponsor Bousy’s brother, wife and two children who are living in a camp in Turkey.  Those supportive roots are continuing to grow.