KAMLOOPS - Community and church groups are banding together with hopes of bringing a Syrian family to Kamloops in the wake of the refugee crisis.
On Sept. 29, a group known as RAFT — Refugees and Friends Together — will outline their plan and provide information for those who want to help one Syrian family make Kamloops their next home.
“A family of four would cost around $30,000,” Lynda Fisher with the organization says. “We're going to have to do a fair amount of fundraising."
Fisher has been helping refugees since the organization’s beginnings in the 1970s. Over the course of her work, she and others have helped bring 80 refugees to Kamloops from all parts of the world, including Iraq, Iran, Kosovo, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Croatia and more.
Some are still here, she says. Others have moved back and some have moved to bigger city centres.
"The ones that I know personally here in town have worked hard, gone back to school. One had their kid graduate from TRU this year. They’ve adapted; it hasn’t been easy,” Fisher says. “If we hadn’t done this years ago there would be 80 people that might not have made it."
With the United Church as a sponsorship agreement holder, Fisher and her fellow volunteers along with help from the Anglican and Lutheran Churches, the Jewish Community Centre and others, are hoping to buckle down on raising funds. But depending on their application and how long it takes to wind through government departments, a family could come as early as six months or within a couple of years.
“We don’t really know what’s happening,” Fisher says.
CANADA ON THE WORLD STAGE
Robert Hanlon, a political science professor at Thompson Rivers University, says there is a great funding shortage for refugees in need. He notes while Canada used to be the watermark on the world stage, the government’s response has been very slow for what he calls the worst refugee crisis on record.
"In terms of our commitment for this crisis, we’re quite behind on what we’re able to do. Generally we’re pretty good, but in this situation we’re unfortunately in the middle of an election campaign,” he says.
While the federal government has committed to accepting 10,000 people, campaigning candidates have named a different number. But Hanlon notes everyone is slow to make it happen. He says only a couple thousand refugees from Syria have entered the country so far and the majority of those cases were privately sponsored from groups like Fisher’s.
United Nations funding is at a low point as well, he notes.
"The UN is trying desperately to raise more attention because there’s a tremendous funding shortfall. We’re talking billions of dollars in aid that is not getting there. They’re worried now that they’re not going to be able to keep feeding those who are living in refugee camps.” Hanlon says.
While both Fisher and Hanlon acknowledge some may be fearful of accepting those coming from a country under the turmoil of a violent civil war, both say the risk of ISIS supporters entering is low and have faith in security screening.
“We’ve got one of the most advanced systems in the world to do this,” Hanlon says. “It’s really a question of political courage at this point. We’re talking about human lives here."
The information session will be held at the United Church on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. Those who want to make a donation to the fundraiser can do so at www.kamloopsunited.ca.
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