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Syrian refugee family will arrive soon

Cecilia Nasmith

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today


A house has been arranged and pretty well furnished, enrolments are being processed at a Cobourg school, and even transportation home from the airport is being worked out.

The committee of local people working with Castleton-Grafton United Church Pastoral Charge minister David Lander are, as far as he is concerned, doing an amazing job to provide a local home for a Syrian family who have been forced out of theirs due to the war-time conditions in their home country.

Thirty-eight-year-old Ta'ef Ghalyoun worked in an auto-body shop in Homs, 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.

Fleeing for their lives amid killings, lootings and every-day sniper fire, they are currently in Jordan and will arrive at the Toronto airport in 30 to 90 days.

Thanks to the local committee, which seems to have missed not a single detail, the family will have a home to go to.

The big need at this time is a simple one — money that will be needed to support the family as they settle into their new community and their new lives.

Otherwise, Lander said, the committee members have surprised him with their thoroughness in putting together lists of every possible need for the family of five, right down to the last hairbrush.

"Some of these are petty things, but not if you don't have them," he pointed out in a telephone interview.

Rental will be paid on a house for them in Cobourg, starting Sept. 1.

Furniture offers are being evaluated and (where appropriate) accepted, and household effects (from mattresses to pots and pans) are being arranged.

Even the sheets and comforters will be there, thanks to the Seymour Pastoral Charge.

Best of all, Lander is arranging for translation help to facilitate communications with the family.

What is causing him concern is the budget. As best he can figure available government subsidies, $20,000 will be needed. Pledges received to date account for half of that.

That $10,000 received represents a lot of small donors, he said.

"The people who are going to give the larger amounts have probably already done that," he figures, so they're down to trying to solicit as many smaller donors as possible.

Lander hopes the growing excitement and enthusiasm will help stir the pot, but the campaign is also raising questions among some about why the church is going overseas to help out when there is so much need at home.

"We felt that, though there is no question that there are lots of people around us — and our Heavenly Helpings is a direct way of trying to fill that need — even those very poorly off in Canada are still way better off than those in refugee camps or under life threat," he responded.

"One person also heard that, when our church needs money, why do we spend it elsewhere. The church, yes, encourages people to give to the church. But the church also regularly encourages people to give to a wide variety of other organizations and this charge, as much as any, has a focus that our reason for being is not just to keep going but to reach out to care for those beyond us.

"We continually hear stories of refugee hardship, and this way we can give at least one family a life."

The group has been told they will get a two-week notice when to expect the family, which will allow them to finalize transportation from the airport and get all the last-minute touches to the house in place that will make it a welcoming home.

The whole process would be much easier with enough pledges, Lander said.

Anyone who would like to help can contact John Wilson at 905-349-2140 or

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