Refugee family coming to Haliburton
By Angelica Ingram
Published May 17, 2016
Haliburton County could be welcoming a refugee family from Syria as early as this summer.
Last week the Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee confirmed a family of 10, consisting of two parents and eight children, would be moving to the community.
The information was welcomed news for the committee, who has been working tirelessly for the past six months to raise funds for refugees, said spokesperson David Barker.
“The flow of refugees was intense at the first part of the year and then slowed down,” he said. “Organizations, groups across the country like us were upset ... it was becoming disappointing because we were hearing it might be another 18 months before we get a family.”
The committee has been working under the umbrella of the Anglican and United Refugee Alliance (AURA) and has raised more than $55,000, at last count, said Barker.
Recently AURA sent out a survey asking groups what they could accommodate in terms of refugees, including family size.
“We said we can take a large family no problem and apparently that got us bumped to the top,” said Barker.
The family, who is currently in Beirut, Lebanon, have fled Syria and could be in Haliburton County in the next six to eight weeks.
They will rent St. George’s Anglican Church’s rectory, which is spacious enough for the family as it has five bedrooms.
There are eight children in the family, four boys, three girls and a toddler, who range from age two to 19.
Barker said the committee does not yet know the names of the family members.
The funds raised by the committee will go towards settling the family into their new home and covering expenses for the first year.
Barker said the family members will not be seeking employment during that year, as the goal is to teach them English.
“The deal is that we sponsor them for the first year. They’re encouraged not to seek employment in the first year, that’s what we’ve raised money for,” he said. “Their job in the first year is to learn English and to learn it well, with a good Haliburtonian accent.”
Committee members have been grouped into subcommittees, focused on areas such as health, English as a second language and more.
These committees are prepared to teach them the ins and outs of life in Canada, including how to deal with black flies, said Barker.
“We’ve got a lot of volunteers in play, it’s amazing the work that they’ve done,” said Barker.
Since formed, the committee has received an outpouring of support and donations, including furniture, blankets, housewares and more.
“The challenge for us has been where do we store this stuff?” said Barker. “The outpouring of public support is tremendous and we’re so thrilled with all of that.”
The committee is excited to know that all their hard work is finally coming to fruition.
“Our fundraising has gone so well and continues to go well,” said Barker, adding the Rotary Interact group at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School is raising funds this week for the committee.
If more money is collected than is required for the family, the committee will be looking to the possibility of bringing in another family, said Barker.
“There are 60 million displaced persons in the world and 20 million, approximately, are refugees,” he said.
“There’s a lot of need and the wonderful thing about Canada is that it’s so wonderful ... this is a wonderful way to change the world. When people see us with open hearts and open arms they’ll start to believe that there’s hope in the world.”