By Jenn Watt
Published May 17, 2016
Haliburton has just received news that a family of refugees will be coming to the Highlands soon.
Two parents and eight children ranging in age from two to 19 have already undoubtedly endured much, leaving their home in war-torn Syria and travelling to Beirut, Lebanon, where they now await the next chapter of their lives.
Over the last seven months, this community has rallied in support of this family, knowing only that they gave up almost everything to be here.
Hundreds of Highlands residents have stepped up, donating money and clothes, furniture and promises of services and volunteers have co-ordinated it all.
I’ve had the privilege of serving on the Haliburton Refugee Sponsorship Committee and I can attest to the admirable dedication I’ve seen from local people, who have offered up their skills and talents to raise money to help this family when they arrive.
Some of the offers bring tears to your eyes: a restaurant willing to cook meals with ingredients of the family’s native land; quilters fashioning a special blanket with symbols of starting anew stitched in; a family excursion to a local camp; a library basket filled with age-appropriate materials. Those are just a few of the dozens of heart-warming offers that have come in.
We don’t yet know the story behind the family chosen for our area, only that they are desperate enough to leave their friends, family, culture and homeland to find safety.
There has been some discussion around the question of whether Canada is able to help people from other countries when we have so many of our own problems at home. That is a valid concern.
The First Nations people have been raising alarm for decades about the state of housing, schooling and basic infrastructure with little improvement in that time. Fort McMurray’s evacuation due to wildfires has displaced a town of 80,000 people. Food banks have seen a steady increase in usership that shows no sign of abating. The list goes on.
But the list has always gone on. Helping one group does not preclude helping another.
In fact, it makes little sense to focus solely on one issue until it is solved before moving to the next largely because we so seldom “finish” solving anything.
All we can do is try to reach out to those who are suffering in whatever way we can. Sometimes that means dividing our energy and redoubling our efforts.
This, of course, is already underway.
As has been demonstrated time and again, the Haliburton Highlands is a place with incredible heart. We now have a new opportunity to show it as we welcome refugees to our community.