January 29, 2016 - 12:11 PM
KAMLOOPS - Volunteers are gearing up for the next Syrian refugee family to arrive in Kamloops tonight, Jan. 29.
Martha Ashbaugh, a volunteer with the sponsor group Refugees and Friends Together, or RAFT, says two brothers are currently on route to Kamloops and will be the second of eight families to arrive this year.
“We only got a couple days notice (that they were arriving),” Ashbaugh says.
The arrival of the latest family, comes nearly one month after a Syrian family of five settled earlier in the new year. Ashbaugh says settling in Kamloops for the parents and their three children had ‘its ups and downs’ but progress is being made.
“The older two are in school and for two children who had never been to school before, it was quite a transition. They’re taking it pretty gently and going part time which is working really well,” she says. "Dad is doing English classes and he’s quite proud of the work he’s doing there."
Ashbaugh notes the mother in the family plans on starting her English courses soon, but is currently tending to her newborn.
The family of five was one of the families privately sponsored by the sponsor group, which means six months of the year the family is financed by them with the second half funded by the federal government. The two brothers coming today are also sponsored by the local sponsorship group and will be cared for by the Kamloops Islamic Society, she says. The group anticipates one more family on their sponsorship list will arrive in Clearwater, but when remains to be seen. The sponsorship group raised funds and completed paperwork for a fourth family, but that opportunity hasn’t worked out, Ashbaugh says.
Beyond those three families, five more government sponsored families are expected to arrive in Kamloops, a number Ashbaugh is happy about but says is difficult to plan for when it comes to housing.
“It’s a struggle financially; refugees get basically the same amount as people on social assistance,” she says.
Earlier this week, RAFT met with other social agencies in the city to evaluate the pool of affordable housing options, which offers little to work with.
Ashbaugh says each family can afford a $750 monthly rent price, which can complicate matters when it comes to housing families of five.
“RAFT knew going in that housing would be difficult,” Ashbaugh says. “We hope to have them in housing that they can afford to stay in. Even if they’re working they’re not going to be in high paying jobs. It will be low income housing even after the year (of funding) is done."
Still, Ashbaugh commends the community of Kamloops for its generosity after the group received enough furniture and household items for five families, currently stored at the city’s warehouse on Mission Flats Road.
“The community has been amazingly generous with donations. It’s just astonishing,” she says.
The group is still looking to collect furnishings and other items. Ashbaugh says there’s a need for good quality linens, such as sheets and towels. Bed frames are needed, too, but she notes the group cannot accept mattress and pillow donations for sanitary reasons. To help with tight housing spaces, Ashbaugh says the group is looking for bunkbeds. She notes the warehouse has a supply of clothing for the refugees, but asks donors to avoid bringing clothes.
"We don’t want to be ungrateful but we have no idea what size or shape the people are who are coming,” she says.
If you would like to make a donation to the warehouse, volunteers will be accepting drop-offs at 800 Mission Flats Road between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. each Saturday except during long weekends.
For more news on Syrian refugees in Kamloops, click here.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016