A group has formed to help bring a beleaguered refugee family from Syria to the Cowichan Valley.
Malak Aburas and Ayman Alshami, a Syrian couple with two young daughters who were sponsored to come to the Valley three years ago and have thrived here ever since, are part of the group.
The father of the family they are trying to sponsor, Ammar Aburas, is the brother of Aburas.
She said Ammar, his wife Heba and their two children fled Syria’s civil war five years ago and went to neighbouring Lebanon as refugees, where they have remained stranded ever since in a country where they are not wanted and looked down upon.
Arubas said her brother can’t legally work in Lebanon because he’s a refugee, so she and her sister in Germany have been sending Ammar’s family money to survive for some time.
Bradley Myrholm and his wife Serena and the Shawnigan Alliance Church sponsored Aburas and her family during the long process to bring them to Canada, and the couple are also part of the group that is working to sponsor her brother’s family to come here as well.
He said the group is working with the Cowichan Intercultural Society to sponsor the family, and many local groups and businesses have already stepped up to help raise funds to bring the family here.
Myrholm said the group needs to raise $27,000 just to cover the costs of applying to bring the family to Canada, and would need approximately $20,000 more to help pay for setting them up in the Cowichan Valley if their application is successful.
He said the Shawnigan Alliance Church held a Syrian food night, with the food made by Aburas, and raised approximately $4,000 for the cause, Island Ford committed another $5,000, and the social justice club at St. John’s Academy is holding a series of ongoing fundraisers.
Naiomi and Blair Middlemen, neighbours of Aburas and her family, are also involved in the campaign to bring the family to Canada.
Naiomi said St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, where she attends, has started fundraising efforts to assist as well.
The group is also setting up a “Henna for Hope” body art booth at the Cobble Hill Fair on Aug. 27 to raise awareness and funds, and will have a booth at the Cowichan Exhibition, which runs from Sept. 16-18.
Serena Myrholm said it’s expected to take two to three years for the sponsorship process to be completed, but there’s a lot of work to do in the meantime, like looking for lodgings and work for them.
Ayman Alshami, who is now a support worker at Duncan’s V.I.T.A.L. Society, said his family has integrated well into the Valley since their arrival and all have learned to speak fluent English in that time.
He said they are proud and happy to be Canadians and live in the Cowichan Valley.
Myrholm said he is “super encouraged” to be part of this new sponsorship process after the success of Aburas and Alshami’s emigration to Canada.
“The families that come here do well and make positive contributions to the Valley,” he said.
“We want and need more to help deal with the ongoing labour shortage. These people really want to come here.”
Naiomi said the world is facing an overwhelming refuge crisis that seems impossible to deal with.
“But, as individuals, we can help make real change happen,” she said.
The group is registered to receive funds and provide tax receipts with the Cowichan Intercultural Society to help bring the family here on its website through Giving - Private sponsorship - Aburas Ammar.