Support continues to grow for bringing Syrian refugees to Salmon Arm in the coming months.
“There are nine families to be sponsored through a combination of churches, church coalitions, Rotary and community-based secular groups,” says Brian Ayotte, who with Joyce Henderson formed the local refugee committee. “I have heard nothing negative, it has all been very positive.”
And word has spread beyond Salmon Arm to neighbouring communities, including Revelstoke, where Ayotte will speak this week.
“They’re definitely going to do at least one family,” he says. “The remarkable thing is it’s not only a benefit to the refugees, but the coming together of the community is fantastic.”
Okanagan College is working on an ESL program for the newcomers and School District #83 is developing pamphlets and information in Arabic for the families.
As well, Ayotte says Interior Health has put together a program for physical and mental health needs of the new residents.
Shuswap Rotary is onboard and one of its members, Steve Genn and spouse Leah Shaw have offered two living spaces for free – a three-bedroom unit above their ProAir Heating and Cooling office and another smaller suite in their home.
“We have this great renovated three-bedroom place and it’s stupid to have it empty. It’s free as long as it’s available,” Shaw said. “We’re kind of excited and looking forward to seeing our new neighbours and being that first introduction to the small-town, Canadian lifestyle.”
Some of the other sponsoring groups also have accommodation lined up, but a hold has been placed on collecting clothing until organizers know exactly what is needed.
An account will be active at SASCU under the name Salmon Arm Refugee Coalition as of Jan. 18 for those who wish to donate money.
Donations can also be made at First United Church, St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Deo Lutheran, E Free, Lakeside, Christian Reformed and Shuswap Community churches. Tax receipts are available.
There is still a need for Arabic-speaking volunteers.
Those who wish to volunteer are invited to call Shuswap Immigrant Services at 250-804-2726 and speak with Gudrun or Diane.
The large umbrella group that formed to bring the refugees to Salmon Arm will be replaced with a smaller steering committee with representatives from each of the nine sponsoring groups.