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Local group sponsors Syrian refugee family

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today


The widespread devastation resulting from conflicts in Syria has created what the BBC has termed the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

A committee originating with the Castleton-Grafton United Church Pastoral Charge will ease the suffering for one family by bringing them to the Northumberland community to start a new life, Rev. David Lander announced last week.

An enthusiastic bunch of church and community members, calling themselves the Syrian Sponsorship Group, are co-ordinating the effort in aid of a Muslim family of five, who have been forced to leave not just their home but their country as well, Lander said.

Thirty-eight-year-old Ta'ef Ghalyoun worked in an auto-body shop, and also drove trucks and taxis. His wife Amira Masharqa, 29, worked as a housekeeper. Together, they have two sons (aged nine and 11) and a four-year-old daughter.

The family were forced into hiding in their home in the town of Homs when sniper fire became a fact of every-day life. The father witnessed some killings, Lander said. Their home was raided twice and looted once, and they felt they had to leave. They fled the country and are now living in Jordan.

"They are out of the heat at the moment, but they can't go home," Lander said.

The committee chose the Ghalyoun family to sponsor and signed the papers. They should arrive in one to three months, Lander estimated, and pledges and other forms of support are beginning to come in.

They have received $8,600 in pledges to date — which could be one-third to one-half of what they will need, depending on what other forms of help come in.

Lander has learned that some government help is available to assist with start-up costs as the family is clothed and sets up housekeeping.

"I would rather use furniture people aren't using than ask the government to pay for it," he said.

"But they will offer some support for initial food and school costs and household effects and, for the first six months, there are some subsidies for food and shelter."

At any rate, judging by the support the community is offering so far, Lander has faith that they will be able to obtain every piece of furniture they need, and more kitchen supplies than you can shake a stick at.

"Whenever you talk to people about this, they think it's great," he said.

So far, there's the possibility of a house plus offers of furniture and household goods.

"We have been in touch with the New Canadians Centre, and it looks like they will be quite helpful," he added.

He's not sure if they can help with what will be a high priority — translation help for a family who speaks Arabic.

Lander has heard that the children speak some English. But he doesn't know how much or where they learned, so he hopes someone can be found who can help with this special requirement as well.

Sponsoring a family is not new to the Grafton-Castleton church. About 12 years ago, they sponsored a family wishing to flee the violent civil unrest in Colombia. They obtained housing for them in Cobourg, where they remain a part of the community.

Lander's own days of sponsoring go back to the Vietnamese Boat People of the late 1970s.

This kind of experience is common to many ministers, he said, and their Syrian committee has had a lot of invaluable help from Rev. Deborah Elliott of the Cold Springs Pastoral Charge in expediting the process.

It takes a community to sponsor a family, and Lander is hoping the Syrian Sponsorship Group will hear from many more people who can help.

Anyone who has household effects to donate can contact Bonnie Bunyan at 905-344-7674.

Anyone who would like to make a monetary donation can contact John Wilson at 905-349-2140.

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