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Oxford opening hearts, arms and community

OXFORD – It looks like Oxford may be joining Amherst, Advocate and Parrsboro in welcoming a Syrian refugee family into its fold.

Oxford has set in motion a plan to sponsor a Syrian refugee family in the near future. About 40 people attended a public meeting Tuesday night to hear two Amherst representatives, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin and Ron Wilson, speak on their group’s experience in sponsoring a family. The interest from the meeting attendees was positive and added their names to serve on the necessary committees to proceed. Signing those sheets here are Karen Barclay and Ken Hickman.

Springhill and Pugwash are presently in the process of sponsoring families.

To gauge the level of community support for sponsoring a family, Oxford town council hosted a public meeting Tuesday night. About 40 residents showed up with the majority openly supporting the initiative.

Two representatives of Amherst’s refuge sponsorship steering committee, Ron Wilson and Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, were on hand to outline the process they went through.

The fastest and most efficient way to bring refugees to Canada is through the private sponsorship program that is supported by the federal government. The United Nations handles handle medical exams and security checks at their end, fast-tracking the process.

The Amherst group understood the process to bring a family to Canada may take 12 to 24 months. That was reduced to six to 12 months then all of a sudden they were told their family was on a plane and would be here in three days. The group fortunately had just about everything in place though they scrambled to complete the home’s furnishing.

Smith-McCrossin and Wilson encouraged the Oxford group to ensure they raised the suggested minimum capital of $35,000 before applying to the program. Unofficially, Oxford, once it has its steering committee and subcommittees in place, may be well on the way to raising that capital and having a home for a family.

“Opening hearts and welcoming is the Canadian way,” said Oxford Mayor Trish Stewart. “Accepting refugees is a proud and important part of Canada’s humanitarian heritage tradition. It shows the world we share the responsibility in helping displaced people in need of refuge. Perhaps we here in our community of Oxford can help.”

It was community members who approached her on numerous occasions the past few months that prompted her to take the request to council.

“Though council is assisting, this has to be community-driven, not council driven,” she said.

The about 40 community members at the meeting didn’t hesitate to add their names to five or six committees needed to begin the sponsorship program.

Pastor Mark Collins indicated his church was willing to make a substantial financial contribution to the initiative. Two local businesspeople have offered to serve as translators.

When Oxford is ready to apply for sponsorship it will be provided a list of available Syrian refugee families from which to choose. Smith-McCrossin suggested they look over the list carefully and pick one deemed to be a right fit for the community.

The sponsoring group is responsible for the family for one year at which time it is hoped the family has settled in, found employment and no longer in need of support.

Syrian families in Cumberland County are fitting in comfortably and well on their way to becoming contributing members of their respective communities.


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