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Neighbours join together to help Syrian refugees

Charmaine Dymond

From left, Anne Martel, Janice Jackson, Alan King, Emily King and Gail Kelly, members of the Bay Refugee Project, at a public information session on Oct. 18 in Tantallon. Right: Malini MacDonald, who runs the local catering business Taste of Mauritius, decided she wanted to help when she heard about the group’s plans. On Nov. 14, she’ll be hosting a Mauritian Night at St. Mary’s Boat Club with proceeds shared between an organization in Mauritius and the Bay Refugee Project. (Charmaine Dymond)

People from all around St. Margaret’s Bay have joined together as the Bay Refugee Project to help bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada.

Speaking at a public information session on Oct. 18, Emily King, chair of the Bay Refugee Project, shared how the initiative developed out of a conversation between neighbours in Hubbards.

“It was a conversation when dropping off kids at school,” says King. “We just said this is enough, we can’t watch this any more. You either become numb or you become more involved. So we decided to become more involved.”

King — a diplomat with Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and currently on assignment in Halifax — lived and worked in the Middle East for eight years, including two in Syria. Her husband and three children were evacuated to Ottawa from Syria because of the crisis while she stayed and worked. Since then, she says, Syria has always been in her mind.

“People don’t want to leave their homes. It’s generally the last resort. When you become a refugee it’s all the worst tragedies wrapped into one,” says King.

Neighbours and friends started meeting in early September, forming a Hubbards community group to look into the sponsorship process. The group grew quickly and soon people from outside Hubbards, like Anne Martel, were interested as well.

Martel heard about the group on the radio when she was driving back to her home in Tantallon from New Brunswick on Labour Day weekend. “I thought this was something I would love to be involved in and I hoped that others from Tantallon would be too,” she says. She attended a public meeting soon after and asked if the Hubbards group could expand to include Tantallon. The others agreed and soon people from all around the St. Margaret’s Bay area — Peggy’s Cove to Blandford — were working together.

The cost of sponsoring a refugee family varies depending on the size of the family and the cost of living in the area. For the Bay Refugee Project, who will be responsible for supporting the family during their first year in Canada, their goal is to raise at least $27,000.

The group has raised $4,000 with almost another $2,000 in pledges so far. Their first fundraising event is scheduled for Oct. 30 at The Shore Club in Hubbards. They hope to raise $5,000 from this event, with more events — including an art auction and a youth evening — in the works. A GoFundMe page has also been set up.

Malini MacDonald, who runs the local catering business Taste of Mauritius, decided she wanted to help when she heard about the group’s plans. On Nov. 14, she’ll be hosting a Mauritian Night at St. Mary’s Boat Club with proceeds shared between an organization in Mauritius and the Bay Refugee Project.

“I’m so pleased with how far they’ve come so quickly,” says MacDonald. “To be honest, I don’t know how much we’ll be raising that evening but I figure anything can help.”

Though the group is only a little over a month old, they’re already looking to the future with thoughts of helping more refugee families. “It’s not something we would go lightly into, but I think there’s enthusiasm enough to carry us through more than one or two families,” says King.

For more information on how to help, email bayrefugeeproject@gmail.comor visit www.facebook.com/BayRefugeeProject.

 

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