A group of Red Deerians have come together to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis through community meetings to develop understanding and support for the issue.
Together the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E) and Catholic Social Services (CSS) make up the Red Deer Immigrant Centre. It was through this group that a community conversation was held last week to discuss the issue at large and how local people can get involved.
“The meeting was a public information session. Over the past month or so, we’ve been discussing the Syrian refugee and humanitarian crisis that is evolving, both in the Middle East and in Europe. The primary reason for the meeting was to bring the public up to date on what is happening and how private citizens, community groups and faith communities can support Syrian refugees,” said Alice Colak, vice-president of Immigration and Settlement Services with CSS.
In addition to general information provided about the Syrian Refugee Crisis, attendees were exposed to possible ways they could help those in need.
Private sponsorships, housing families and supporting overseas organizations were a few of the recommended avenues.
“Annually, Red Deer receives around 70 refugees from refugee-producing countries and regions. Over the past year and a half, out of the 75 refugees that came to Red Deer, about 24 were Syrian. We’ve already begun receiving Syrian refugees, but I think over the past month, ever since the photo of the boy who drowned escaping Turkey, people have become more aware and want to know how they can help,” said Colak.
According to Colak, this session was one of many that have been held throughout the province.
These sessions are funded by the provincial government as part of a community engagement strategy to inform citizens about the issue, and about what supports and programs exist in communities for refugees.
Colak said eventually the conversations will focus on coordinating the receiving of refugees into communities, once they know how many refugees will be excepted into Canada.
“These people spoke with great compassion and generosity. Not everybody can help in the same way, so we talked about how people could form together as part of a sponsoring group or a community group,” Colak said.
“We went through some of the options that people might have, and then some of the participants provided other options like housing a family temporarily while they’re finding a permanent place to live. Others offered donations and those kinds of things.”
Colak said at the meeting she feels Red Deer has a big and generous heart.
“We’ve been accepting Syrian refugees for years and it’s been a bit slow for Red Deer.
“There is a community being established. Other refugee groups include people from Iraq, Ethiopia and a variety of other countries,” she said.
“There will be more meetings regarding how many refugees Canada will accept, how many will be coming to Alberta and how many will come to Red Deer. We will meet with all the key service providers and stakeholders to bring everyone up to date, and then we will develop a community plan as to how we can support them.”