A highlight of the efforts made by current Canadians to help new Canadians
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
Selina Prevost, a mother from Coquitlam, is making an effort towards helping Syrian refugee children feel welcome in their new home, through customized dolls and teddy bears.
“I’d love to be there when they get to a shelter, or show up once they land at the airport,” Prevost said to The Huffington Post. “Just something for them to hold as soon as possible.”
Prevost is one of many Canadians working to help the masses of Syrian refugees expected to enter Canada by February 2016.
Knitters have been working across the country to create large amounts of “Izzy Dolls,” a doll design created by Carol Isfeld as tribute to her son, Master Cpl. Mark “Izzy” Isfeld, who lost his life in a mission to the Balkans in 1994. Mark had once described a scene to his mother of how he had seen a doll left behind by a child who had fled in fear.
Although the project has been gaining traction since Mark’s death over 20 years ago, there has been a higher demand for knitters to contribute because of the large number of refugee children incoming.
The government is encouraging Canadians to donate towards refugee sponsorship, with a promise of matching the donations up until $100 million is reached by the public.
Within BC, the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia is providing support and counselling for individuals and families settling into Canada, hoping to ease the minds of those who have gone through traumatic experiences within Syria. The society also provides employment counselling and coordinates local donations of cash and items.
The Muslim Food Bank has been collecting food donations for the refugees, in addition to offering to help the new refugees find housing and employment.
Aside from counselling and donations, Canadians have been coming together to organize welcoming ceremonies to help the refugees feel more welcome and accepted into a new society. Children are also being encouraged to participate, with many creating homemade cards with kind messages.
Language educators are working together to create “conversation cafes,” which will help the refugees pick up English or French. Other educators are stepping in to help Syrian children get caught up in other school subjects, since many have fallen behind due to displacement.
“These groups are always looking for volunteers,” said Hugh Brewster of Word Vision Canada to CTV. “…All of them have ways that volunteers can contribute.”