Local group looks to help refugees

Agassiz United Church is a part in the committee that seeks to welcome arrivals to the area

A group of friends in Agassiz and Chilliwack who were concerned about the plight facing thousands of refugee families stranded in camps have formed the Eastern Fraser Valley Refugee Committee.

The new committee’s aim is to help refugees who are displaced by the Syrian conflict.

Made up of the east cluster of Fraser Presbytery of the United Church the group includes members from Agassiz, Rosedale, Carman, Chilliwack, and Mount Shannon United Churches, Christ Lutheran Church, and interested community groups.

“Discussions and spontaneous meetings have finally resulted in focused action,” said Nelson Rajotte, a member of the group’s executive committee. “A formal application to Immigration Canada to sponsor at least one Syrian family for settlement in Chilliwack has been made.”

Rajotte added that knowledgeable members who have had earlier involvement in refugee settlement projects have offered their expertise to the committee.

The Canadian government expects each sponsor to raise close to $30,000 to apply to a family’s first year after arrival in the country.

“In addition to basic survival support the new family requires accommodation, health care, schooling for children, training in English and acculturation to financial management and the labour market,” said Rajotte.

And he hopes contact can be made with extended family members and other Syrian nationals already settled in the local community to help smooth the transition to Canadian life.

Items like dishes, kitchen utensils, furniture, bedding, winter clothes and food are all necessities that Rajotte and his local volunteers will be looking for people to donate.

If you have had experience in similar family transitions and live in the Agassiz, Harrison Hot Springs area and want to assist, contact Nelson at 604-796-0409 or Agassiz United Church agassizunited@shaw.ca.