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December 24, 2015

Dear friends of the James Bay Refugee Initiative.

Earlier this week, a member of the JBRI steering committee was invited to a gathering of Syrian newcomers. Food was shared and she had the opportunity to talk one on one with so many amazingly strong and resilient Syrians. She heard many sad stories of family members left behind and difficult journeys to get where they are today. But most of all she heard hope, optimism and gratitude.

So much gratitude. Grateful to be here in this safe and welcoming community and country. Grateful that their children were safe. Grateful for all the people in Victoria who have been so nice to them. Many were sporting Canadian lapel pins and although many do miss Syria and their friends they are truly grateful for this opportunity .

When she asked, “What is that you need the most?”they did not say a television or a car or an iPhone, they all said “a job”. All of these men want to support their families, they need to work, they want work. They are very proud people who are grateful for the help but really want to be self-sufficient.

But they need other things and in the spirit of the Christmas season she wonders if people might consider donating something to these families. Here are just a few of the people that she met last night and some of the things they need. Some people were too proud to ask for anything. There seems to be a real need for cell phones and computers so they can communicate with family still in the Middle East.

Many of these families live in the Quadra Hillside area so any gift cards to Fairways market would be greatly appreciated. There are also lots of children here so even if you can’t find anything on this list but have new or gently used children’s clothing or toys especially sports equipment that would also be appreciated. Here are some of the stories:

Husband and wife both seniors. We had a beautiful life in Syria until life turned around and we had to seek refuge to Egypt. We were very lucky to come to Canada. We love it here, but life is so expensive and winter is very cold. We just need a little support to buy groceries and winter coats to keep us warm. My husband is very sick he has heart problem, he has pace maker.. I'm hoping that people with good hearts can offer us some support.They need: grocery cards (Fairway Market) in any amount or winter coats.

A 47 year-old man from Syria, He came with his wife and three children, a son age 23 and two daughters ages 22 and 14. His son has experience in construction and plumbing and was accepted to Law School in Syria. Before the conflict in Syria, he owned two home supply shops, and life was very good with a car, house, and farm. With his family, he fled from Syria to Lebanon where he was able to be sponsored by the United Nations to come to Canada. His main concerns and hopes now in Canada are: educating his children and finding employment. They need: Gift card for grocery Fairways Market or Walmart. Gas card as he has a small car.

32 Year old Father of a 2year old son and 4 year old daughter He fled from Syria to Egypt and arrived in Canada 8 months ago. Living in Canada was a dream for me. I hope for a good life for my children to live a happy childhood as I lived mine; for them to live in peace away from fear and terror. I hope to be a good positive Canadian Citizen and to give back to Canada for everything it had given us. I hope that my family will be involved positively in the Canadian society and for us to learn English well and to work and contribute to the community. They need: A laptop computer , camera equipment (he was a photographer in Syria) athletic shoes size 11.5

A family of four, husband, wife, 16 year old daughter, and 15 year old son This family has been through such horror. They made their way here to Canada under truly troubling circumstances. One thing becomes clear when you talk with this family, they need peace and they want to be Canadian. The parent's goal is to give their children the protections and ideals which all Canadians are accustomed and entitled to. When they were asked, “What would you like for people in the community to help you with?” He replied: “We don't want things, we just want to be part of the community.” But they do need things and they do need help. They need: A full size refrigerator, a cell phone

53-year-old man and his 51-year-old wife. They have 6 children but only two are here with them. They are in need of a mini freezer. This family of six includes a husband and wife, and four children. The children are a girl, 14, a boy, 13, another boy, 9, and the newest addition, a girl, 3 months old. Other than the youngest, the whole family was born in Syria. They had a magnificent life, they owned their own home, and the husband worked in trades, importing and exporting steel. Everything changed when the war broke out around them. They had to leave everything behind. Everything of value they had was now useless because they could not even sell their house. Homs was the city that saw the worst acts of war, and it was the one that this family knew they had to leave. They need: Playstation for the children, cell phone and clothing for parents both X-large.

This 34 year old man was working as a tailor and distributor of wholesale products in Syria. At that time, they were a family of four; a husband, wife and their two children. The children were in school and the family had a comfortable life. After the war the family moved to Turkey where life was difficult. They lived in a single room and struggled with their living expenses. They were also taken advantage of due to their circumstances. He had to work long hours with little pay and sometimes no pay at all. In moving to Canada they are looking for a better life. He wants his family to live a good life like anyone else; to live in peace and have a good education for his children. They need: Pots and pans

If you can help in any way with the needs of these newcomers, please let us know and we will arrange to get your donations to the ones who need them.

Stay tuned. We hope to have some news in January!


Aleksa Harkness For the James Bay Refugee Initiative