Preparations are underway to bring at least 29 Syrian refugees to Sarnia-Lambton, with more likely to follow.
The community’s willingness to pitch in has been “amazing,” says Art deGroot, a member of a refugee committee representing four area Christian Reformed Churches.
“I am finding that people are very, very generous,” he said. “And it speaks volumes about how we here feel about refugee efforts as a whole — despite all the fear mongering we hear.”
deGroot said the committee — which has a sponsoring agreement through World Renew — is awaiting word on when the first of two families will arrive, including a mom, dad and three daughters ages 6, 8 and 9.
“We were looking for a couple with children, and thought they would integrate the easiest,” said deGroot. “Children have a way of getting over barriers a little quicker than us.
“We’re getting excited.”
The plan is to settle the family in close proximity to the YMCA Learning and Career Centre on Oakdale Avenue where they’ll benefit from a number of immigrant and refugee settlement services, including ESL classes, deGroot said, noting that members are currently collecting furniture, bedding and clothing.
A fundraising goal has been set of $54,000 to sponsor both families, and deGroot is confident they’ll reach the mark.
“We have so much stuff — financially and materially — and we can easily share. There’s so many people hearing about it and coming forward. It’s just wonderful.”
His enthusiasm is echoed by Aruba Mahmud, outreach and education secretary with the Sarnia Muslim Association, which is working with the Unitarian Fellowship of Sarnia and Port Huron to sponsor a family of refugees, with hopes of an early 2016 arrival.
“We have received tremendous support from the community, with many individuals and businesses donating large sums of money,” said Mahmud, pointing to more than $40,000 already raised.
“A family who owns property has also generously donated a townhouse unit for a year for the family to reside in.”
Meanwhile, the Refugee Ministry of Sacred Heart and St. Michael Catholic Churches has raised $24,000 with plans to sponsor an extended family of 11, with support from the south zone parishes the St. Benedict, St. Joseph’s Sarnia and Our Lady of Mercy.
The Lambton and Area Refugee Committee (LARC) will also be sponsoring two refugee families, with a fundraising goal of $30,000 for a family of four and a family of six. Donations can be made to any area Anglican Church or at the Inn of the Good Shepherd.
Stephanie Ferrera of the Sarnia-Lambton Local Immigration Partnership said she is working closely with Krista Gillespie, general manager of YMCA newcomer, immigrant and refugee services, to assemble a working group of local service providers to help ease the transition for new families.
“The partnership is one that is working to make the landing, settling and integration of Syrian refugees in the community meaningful and long term,” Ferrera said.
How you can help:
Below is the contact information for the groups working to bring Syrian refugees to Sarnia-Lambton:
The Christian Reformed Community Refugee Committee
Contact: Art deGroot, 519-542-5009, [email protected]
Sarnia Muslim Association/Unitarian Fellowship of Sarnia & Port Huron
Refugee Ministry of St. Michael and Sacred Heart
Contact: Emily Fortney Blunt, 519-542-0313, [email protected]
Lambton and Area Refugee Committee (LARC)
Donations can be made to any Anglican Church in the area, or the Inn of the Good Shepherd