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Okanagan church group spends $60k to bring family from Syria

Syrian refugees wait at the port of Lesbos island, Greece, to board a ferry travelling to Athens, on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Petros Giannakouris
September 11, 2015 - 4:30 PM

KELOWNA – Three local churches who spent $60,000 to bring a family from to Kelowna from Syria this summer are raising funds to bring even more refugees from the civil war-torn country.

For 30 years the Central Okanagan Refugee Committee have rescued families and individuals from countries afflicted with famine, wars and disease. Six months ago, after hearing about the refugee crisis in Syria, Rutland United Church pastor Rick Potter asked for a list of families his committee could help.

“It was a kind of natural response to the horrors happening since 2011 in Syria when people started a mass exodus. People are only now seeming to find out about it," he says. "We asked in particular for a Syrian family and were given a list of eight families ready to come to Canada. We picked the largest (family) they had.”

The family arrived in Kelowna five months later in July and the Committee, made up of three United churches from Kelowna and Winfield, had already secured a four bedroom house. They also provided furniture and appliances, bicycles and food.

“We’ve got an amazing place here in Kelowna which should be able to support refugees on an ongoing basis. I think we should be responding to it. We have the resources to do it," he says. "I think from a Christian perspective, there’s no question it’s the right thing to do.”

Potter says the family did get some help from the Federal government, but feels more should still be done.

“The government is paying for half of the expenses for the year but it doesn’t really amount to half,” he says. “They pay for six months and if they haven’t established themselves by that time then they would go on to the welfare system. Our group pays for the first month because it’s the most expensive and the last five months. The government pays the other six.”

Potter says the family is adjusting well and enjoying Kelowna — although not for the reasons we might expect.

“The other day I was over talking to the family, I asked him what he liked most about Canada, I thought he would talk about the opportunities, the food, the climate. He said it was the peace. That’s something we in Canada take for granted.”

According to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 4 million Syrian refugees have fled their country since the outbreak of civil war in 2012. About 2,000 have drowned trying to reach Europe since 2011 and half of Syria's 23 million populace have either fled or been displaced.

So far Canada has admitted 2,374 Syrian refugees through government assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs with plans to bring 10,000 more.

Potter says his organization is ready to do their part.

“We’ve been doing this for thirty years,” Potter says. “We’re not going to stop.”

The Committee is holding a fundraising dinner Sep. 26. Although tickets have already sold out, they are looking for volunteers to help in the kitchen as well as donated items for a silent auction. For more information call Rick Potter at 250-765-5141 or email

To contact the reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw at or call 250-718-0428. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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