How to help Syrian refugees in your community
Published Thursday, November 26, 2015 11:29AM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 27, 2015 9:22AM EST
Many Canadians want to help the 25,000 Syrian refugees due to arrive in Canada by the end of February, but few can afford the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to sponsor a refugee family. Still, there are plenty of other ways to help. Here’s a look at a few of them.
Contact an immigrant settlement organization
World Vision Canada’s Hugh Brewster says every community in Canada has an “immigrant settlement service” or “refugee settlement organization” that helps to resettle the thousands of immigrants that Canada already welcomes every year.
These are the organizations the government will be working through to settle the refugees they have sponsored and many will be eagerly seeking help to help with the sudden influx.
“These groups are always looking for volunteers,” he told CTV’s Canada AM Thursday. “…All of them have ways that volunteers can contribute.”
Simply do an Internet search for “immigrant settlement” along with the name of your city or region to find these groups.
Take part in a welcoming event
Many of these immigrant settlement organizations will be looking for people to organize welcoming events and dinners to introducerefugees to the neighbourhood and members of their new communities and to make them feel at home.
Involve the kids
Contact your local immigrant settlement organization and see if they will accept handmade welcome cards and then ask your kids to make up a few “Welcome to Canada” letters filled with best wishes.
Volunteer to help a refugee get settled
Immigrant settlement organizations will also be looking for volunteers to help refugees with the basics of getting settled in their new community, including filling out paperwork, driving them to appointments, showing them the local schools and grocery stores, and assisting them with finding permanent housing.
Donate clothing and other goods
Many settlement organizations will be seeking donations of clothing, household supplies, furniture, toys and more. But Brewster says it’s important to contact the groups first, find out what they still need and then offer to pitch in.
Help with education
Brewster also suggests taking part in a conversation café to help the new arrivals with their English or French, since learning the language spoken in their communities is one of the most important ways a newcomer can become connected to the community. Those who speak Arabic can also help with translation.
As well, many of the refugee children will need extra homework help, since some of these kids have been out of school for a long time, are just beginning to learn English and have a long way to catch up on their academics.
Make a donation
There are lots of local organizations and charities in need of funds to help with settlement assistance costs. There are also plenty of international humanitarian organizations offering assistance to refugees still in camps overseas. (The federal government offers tips for how to choose a charity).
The federal government has created the Syria Emergency Relief Fund, so that for every dollar donated to registered Canadian charities that are accepting donations earmarked for the Syria crisis, the government will set aside one dollar in the fund.
Spread the word
World Vision Canada’s Brewster says the biggest way Canadians can help is to brush up on the basics of the Syrian crisis, find out why these refugees have fled their homes, and why they are coming to Canada.
There are lots of myths being circulated about these new refugees, so Brewster says it’s important to let others know you value the newcomers and support their arrival.