A group of local citizens is working to bring a Syrian refugee family of two (soon to be three) to the Cowichan Valley.
“We are a small group of concerned individuals working hard to expedite the sponsorship of a young Syrian couple presently in Iraq. She is 22 years old, 30 weeks pregnant and has worked as a translator for Doctors Without Borders. He is 32 years old, a trained physiotherapist who has been working as a nurse,” explained New Beginnings private sponsorship group’s team lead Barb Kruger.
“Their situation is urgent as we hope to bring them to the Cowichan Valley before their baby is born so she can deliver in safety,” Kruger added of Baraa and her husband Faran.
Baraa and Faran are currently in a small apartment in Dohuk, a city in northern Iraq. Dohuk is calm, but the surrounding region has experienced intense fighting, with the ISIS-occupied city of Mosul only 75 kilometres away. The logistics of Baraa and Faran coming to Canada are still up in the air, but Kruger is hoping it all works out as quickly as possible.
“We’re learning through the eyes of somebody else in that situation what it’s like to be there,” Kruger said, explaining the process, even once all necessary paperwork is filled in and translated, has a number of other steps including a medical exam, interview and the flight itself, which may have restrictions based on stage of pregnancy. There’s also the geographic location and the question of how and where the interview takes place and whether they can fly out of Erbil, Iraq.
“Most people have not looked up Syria, they have not looked up Turkey. They have not looked up Iraq. Look at borders and how things are,” Kruger said. “A few more weeks and she won’t be able to fly.”
Kruger got to know about Baraa and Faran’s situation because Baraa worked as a translator for a Doctors Without Borders trauma counsellor from Vancouver. That woman had worked with Adrienne Carter from Shawnigan Lake, a woman who’s also worked for Doctors Without Borders and is a friend of Kruger’s.
“Baraa was the translator for the psychologist,” Kruger explained, adding that the couple is from Aleppo, which has been particularly devastated by the Syrian civil war.
New Beginnings is working through Cowichan Intercultural Society, the local sponsorship agreement holder, to Bring Baraa and Faran here. In total CIS expects between five to 12 government-assisted Syrian refugee families to arrive in the Cowichan Valley by month’s end, with four privately-sponsored families currently here and more underway.
“The community group really takes it and runs with it, but the sponsorship will be under us,” explained CIS executive director Lynn Weaver. “We are treating it as urgently as possible because airlines can refuse travel once a woman is into the third trimester or if there’s any concerns or risks with the pregnancy. So we definitely want to try to get her here sooner rather than later,” she added.
Weaver said things are going well so far with privately-sponsored refugee families who have arrived, one of whom was sponsored by New Beginnings.
“Many of them are coming to English classes here and children are enrolled in school and soccer and swimming and all that sort of stuff. So they’re getting integrated into the community,” Weaver said, adding the first government-assisted Syrian refugee families should be arriving this week.
Housing for Baraa and Faran has been donated by Colleen Davy of Chemainus bringing down the amount of the initial goal, which now sits at $4,000 still to be raised. Assistance is also being offered by Elizabeth Morrison of the Cowichan Midwifery Group and Dr. Kate McDonald of the Cowichan Maternity Clinic at Cowichan District Hospital.
To make a financial donation to help Baraa and Faran you can send a contribution to Cowichan Valley Intercultural Society, 205-394 Duncan St., Duncan B.C., V9L 3W4, indicating it is for New Beginnings, drop off cash or a cheque at the Matraea Centre at 170 Craig St. in Duncan, or visit www.canadahelps.org/dn/6052 and click on the General drop-down bar to find New Beginnings Private Sponsorship Group and make your tax-deductible donation.
You may also email Kruger at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to offer assistance. Furniture and clothing are not needed.
“Your generosity will be so appreciated,” Kruger said. “Every dollar helps.”