SCUGOG: Thanks to support from the local community, the Port Perry Refugee Support Group has now been able to bring a total of four Syrian refugee families to Scugog.
The latest two refugee families sponsored by the group arrived in Port Perry on Thursday, March 9th.
“The fundraising support we got from the community has exceeded our expectations,” Mike Lorish, a member of the support group’s fundraising committee, told The Standard. “We were originally planning to do only one or two families, but when the funding came in we decided we were going to go for four families. So it’s been quite a ride, just being part of the organization and seeing that all come to fruition so quickly.”
Mr. Lorish added that local businesses have stepped up to help these families.
“The support we’ve got from business owners has been amazing. We’ve had owners donate services and goods, and doctors and dentists have donated services. It’s really been quite amazing, and it’s been fun to be a part of,” he said.
The group welcomed the first family to Port Perry in February of 2016. That family later moved to Oshawa to be closer to their ESL classes. A second family of Syrian refugees, the Ghilan family, arrived in Scugog in December of 2016.
Wendy Coenen has been working closely with the Ghilan family. She said the family is happy they are in a community where they feel safe.
“[The Ghilan family] loves Port Perry. They have said they have no intentions of ever leaving. They find it a wonderful town,” she said. “[Rehab Alfares, wife of Ahmad Ghilan] has said that it is the first time they have felt safe, in, she doesn’t know how long.”
Ms. Coenen also said that the Ghilan family helped greet the last two refugee families, when they arrived in Canada.
“They actually volunteered to go down to the airport to meet the families, and they volunteered to cook food for them for when they arrived,” she said.
Mr. Lorish spoke about what the process is like, for the group, after they are matched with a family from Syria.
“It’s hurry up and wait for weeks and months, then all of a sudden we get the phone call that they’re coming. All of a sudden, there is the apartments to get organized, to get them furnished and to get the shelves stocked, get the clothing for the families,” he said, explaining that they are usually given 48 to 72 hours notice of the refugee family’s arrival date.
The support group then supports the families in any way they can, including helping set up bank accounts, internet, ESL classes and health cards, coordinating rides and offering tutoring, among many other services.
“Basically if they need extra service, we find what they need,” Ms. Coenen said.
She also explained what it is like to see the faces of the families that arrive in Canada.
“It’s relief, it’s complete relief. I think they’re exhausted. Most of them have travelled for 24 hours, and they all have children so the children are exhausted. But they’ve all said the relief that they are here finally and that they’re safe, and that they’re in Canada, is overwhelming compared to how tired they are,” Ms. Coenen said. “As much as they are tired and exhausted, just knowing that they are here and they’re safe didn’t make them tired anymore, is how they described it.”
Ms. Coenen wanted to stress that every refugee family that comes to Port Perry is very appreciative of everything they are given.