BY JOE WEPPLER
According to Immigration Partnership – a group of more than 100 local organizations and community members focused on supporting and integrating immigrants – planning is underway to prepare for nearly 1,150 Syrian refugees who are soon expected to start arriving in Waterloo Region.
On Dec. 3, Conestoga NDP will be hosting a Syrian Awareness Day in the Sanctuary from noon to 1 p.m. at the Doon campus to generate support for refugees and to shed light on their situation.
“It’s to educate people on what’s happening in Syria, what the refugees are going through and what it means to be a Muslim,” said Jordan Ellis, the president of Conestoga NDP and the chairperson for the Waterloo Region’s NDP youth wing.
Ellis, a first-year general arts and science student at Conestoga, was noticed by the Ontario New Democratic Youth for his work and was put in charge of setting up a regional NDP youth group. One of his first goals as president of Conestoga NDP is to aid with the Syrian refugee crisis.
One of the main reasons for the event is to raise awareness and donations for Siba Al-Khadour and her sister, Awatef Al-Khadour, who are attempting to send blankets and clothes to their homeland of Syria.
Siba and Awatef are members of Najda Now, a humanitarian organization collecting donations and aid for Syria.
Siba, who came to Canada in 2004, is planning on sending crates filled with clothing, blankets and other aids to Syria. The crates are 40 feet long and cost $4,200 each to ship.
“We appreciate any help,” said Siba. “They really need it.”
Siba will be the keynote speaker at the Syrian Awareness Day event at Conestoga, where she will explain her mission and what’s happening in Syria.
“We’re hoping the event will get her the money she needs,” said Ellis. “If not, there’s always the potential of bringing it to other schools.”
Plans for other speakers include one from the Muslim Association of Canada to help shed light on what it means to be a Muslim, and, for diversity’s sake, one from the United Trinity Church.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to accept 25,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq by the end of the year. Though most agree that work must be done to help refugees, many think that the Liberal’s timeline is too ambitious and could lead to problems with resettlement.
Experts such as those at the Canadian Immigrant Settlement Sector Alliance believe that Trudeau should reconsider the timeframe for resettling refugees, instead amping up the help sent overseas to those struggling to live day-to-day in Syria.
“We’re hoping to help people understand just what they’re facing over there,” said Ellis.
At the end of the event, a petition to help the refugees will be circulated.