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Refugee project offers hope


In October 2015 members of the Amherst Rotary Club, and many other Canadians, looked on with sadness at the photo of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach.

The Syrian child lost his life when his family tried to flee the ongoing civil war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands over the last few years.

The Syrian child lost his life when his family tried to flee the ongoing civil war in Syria that has killed hundreds of thousands over the last few years.

Instead of doing nothing, or having that attitude that it’s something taking place on the other side of the world, the club opted to try and make a difference, to do the right thing by making Amherst home to a Syrian family.

Along with helping someone start a new life away from the strife and war at home, the club’s plan also answered a challenge set out in the One Nova Scotia report that said immigration would have a big role to play in the economic future of the province.

The club put up the first $5,000 toward the cost of bringing a family to Canada and entered into a partnership with First Baptist Church, Holy Family Parish and others in the community to start the process that would lead to the first Syrian family arriving in Amherst last January.

That family was followed by a second family during the summer and there’s a possibility that one or more families could arrive in Amherst in 2017.

While the transition to Canada has not been an easy one, both families – and one that moved to Amherst after originally settling in Parrsboro – seem to have found comfort in their new community.

It should come as no surprise that Amherst Rotarians have garnered some positive international attention. Rotary International, based in Chicago, is working on a series of documentaries to profile how Rotary has responded to the refugee crisis. It did features in Berlin; Amman, Jordan and Pennsylvania.

While researching another community to profile, producer Andrew Chudzinski found the Amherst refugee committee’s work on cumberlandnewsnow and began the process that saw the Rotary International film crew in Amherst last weekend to interview the partners that made the project a reality.

Although the project did have its naysayers – along with those who felt charity should begin at home – the project has been a huge success and is something the community as a whole should be proud of.

Last Saturday, the Syrian families held a celebration at First Baptist Church to say thank you to Amherst. There was food, music and dancing and the community’s response was overwhelming.

This story is a great reason for Amherst to celebrate during some tough economic times. It would have been very easy for the community to ignore the refugees’ cause, but instead of doing nothing it chose to welcome these families and make them part of Amherst.

 

 

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