(From left) Nancy Curleigh, Judith Bauer and Ulrike Rockenbauer are part of the Parrsboro Welcomes Refugees committee, which is working on bringing a Syrian refugee family to the community.
PARRSBORO – As Canada moves ahead with its commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of February, 2016, a group of local citizens is well on the way to bringing one of those families to Parrsboro.
A committee called “Parrsboro Welcomes Refugees” has so far raised over $5,000 of the required $13,500, and is working closely with the Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) as it continues through the process.
“We’re very excited,” said committee member Nancy Curleigh, on the response so far. “For us not having reached out too much in the community yet, I thin we’re doing well. Thanks to the family of Judith and Harvey, who really got it going, but the rest has been local and I rarely find negative views.”
Judith Bauer and Harvey Lev are among the committee members, as is Ulrike Rockenbauer, all of whom took part in a recent interview on the campaign. Fighting in the region of Syria and Iraq has forced millions of families from their homes, resulting in what has been described as the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
Canada is the only country in the world to allow private sponsorship, which sees community groups like the one in Parrsboro take on the responsibility for providing housing, food, clothing, local transportation and other basic necessities for the first year, after which the families are expected to be independent.
While response has been overwhelmingly positive so far, some members of the public have raised concerns such as security, and availability of jobs in small communities like Parrsboro.
The committee members assured that Citizenship and Immigration Canada are responsible for a rigorous security screening before the families come to Canada.
As for jobs, they don’t expect it to be a problem. In fact, some local employers have told them it is often a struggle to find workers for local jobs, whether it is for carpentry, house cleaning or even shoveling a driveway.
Many immigrants often come with an entrepreneurial spirit, adding something to a community that was not there before, according to Lev.
“I think newcomers, immigrants and refugees come with a different view,” said Bauer. “So, when it comes to starting a business, and finding work, they are going to see opportunities where we would never dream. They’re going to come up with things we never thought of.”
“Normally, after a year, refugees are able to help themselves and have a job already because they want to get out of their situation,” said Rockenbauer. “They want to have more money. They don’t want to take handouts.”
Meanwhile, the group continues to work to get a family here. An online fundraiser has been set up at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6132M2 and a “Parrsboro Welcomes Refugees” Facebook page has also been set up at https://www.facebook.com/ParrsboroWelcomesRefugees/?fref=ts.
The committee is also searching for a house that could be made available for the new family, and has also spoken to Parrsboro Town Council where it received a warm welcome. Lev has already offered to match whatever support council can offer.
Whatever money is contributed for this cause will go back into the community as the family shops at the local grocery store and other local businesses, Lev pointed out. Other communities such as Advocate and Portapique are well on the way to success with similar campaigns.
But the first thing is to get them here, and Curleigh is hoping the generosity of the community will make that happen.
“It’s the heart of our community, to welcome them after such a stressful walk just to get here,” she said. “They have little or nothing.”