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Four refugee families now set to come to city

Two families fleeing war and violence in the Middle East could be resettled in Sudbury as early as February, a local group dedicated to helping refugees announced Friday.
Jim Gordon and Claire Zuliani, of Sudbury Project Hope, announce Friday the group has agreed to sponsor two refugee families. One family fled ISIS in Iraq, the other the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Photo by Darren MacDonald. Quote: “When I see my children living in peace … When they complete their education and live as other children all over the world.” Father of a Syrian family of seven, when asked what will make him happy. Photo by Darren MacDonald
Two families fleeing war and violence in the Middle East could be resettled in Sudbury as early as February, a local group dedicated to helping refugees announced Friday.

One family of seven fled Iraq when ISIS swept through the region, killing residents and destroying homes. Another family of seven were forced to flee Syria when they were singled out for supporting pro-democracy protests. The family business was destroyed and women and children were being kidnapped.

Friday's announcement brings to four the number of refugee families coming to the city. St. Andrew's United Church is also sponsoring a family, as is St. Kevin Parish in Capreol.

Efforts to bring those fleeing conflict to Canada picked up pace Thursday, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greeted the first planeload of refugees to arrive.

"I was very proud to be a Canadian yesterday,” said Claire Zuliani, of Sudbury Project Hope, at a new conference Friday at MacLeod Public School. "When you see the mothers and fathers and young children of various ages ... some of those children have probably never gone to school. They've just known war and conflict and living in a refugee camp.

“As of yesterday, that changes for some of them."

Another member of the group, former Sudbury Mayor Jim Gordon, said despite the challenges, they agreed to bring both families to Sudbury. That means they will have to raise $100,000 to support them through their first year in Canada.

"The people in these countries want to have a life same as us, want to be able to raise their children," Gordon said.

"On the streets of these countries, there are dismembered bodies lying (on the ground), practically every morning. Can you imagine at night hearing military vehicles coming down your street? They live with constant fear in their heart."

Gordon said he has faith the people of Sudbury will open their hearts and do what they can to welcome the refugee families to the city, likely in late February or early March.

"We, in Canada, are a beacon of hope and light," he said. "People in Sudbury have an opportunity to give people back their lives."

Norm Blaseg, director of education at the Rainbow District School Board, said the school board is preparing to ease the transition for the soon-to-be students in the system.

"This is going to be very difficult for them," he said. "Many of these kids may not have experienced school in the past."

The traumas they experienced in their native lands, language and cultural barriers will make integrating into the local school system much more challenging.

"We have to find the resources to help these particular kids," Blaseg said. "It will take some time for them to get used to being with other kids."

Gordon said in addition to fundraising, they are working with mental health professionals to ensure the families get the counselling they may need to help with their past traumas, and with the transition to a new way of life.

Once the two families arrive and receive the supports they need, more sponsorships could happen, he said.

“The people of Sudbury are the ones who will decide how successful we are with these families, and what happens in the future."

To help:

Mail donations to: Sudbury Project Hope, 2015 Long Lake Rd. PO Box 40027, Sudbury, P3E 4M0.
To volunteer: Call Camilla Yahnke, 705-522-6079.


Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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