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Household goods, furniture and clothing are needed to help a Syrian refugee family.

Donations needed to give Syrian family warm welcome

October 13, 2016 — 

Household goods, furniture and clothing are needed to help a Syrian refugee family that’s being sponsored by faculty, staff and students of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.

The required sponsorship fund of $35,000 was raised during the 2015-16 academic year and many household items have already been donated. Now organizers have put out a call for specific remaining items to equip the family of six when they arrive.

“The response has been really heartwarming,” says Dr. Alan Katz, director of the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. Katz is leading the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences Refugee Response, assisted by Dr. Sharon Bruce of the Department of Community Health Sciences.

Items on the donation wish list range from a vacuum cleaner to dressers, student desks, a set of bunkbeds, new single mattresses, sports equipment, a computer and printer, school supplies and clothing – especially winter gear such as parkas, snow pants, mitts, hats and scarves.

Anyone who would like to contribute can check which items are still needed and sign up to donate them. The list of items will be updated weekly. Pickup of donated items can be arranged if needed.

The Syrian family will arrive in Winnipeg on Tuesday, October 18. Matched with the Rady Faculty about three months ago, the family includes a husband who is a pastry chef and baker, his wife and their four sons, ranging in age from 7 to 13. They are currently living in a refugee camp in Turkey. It is not yet known what clothing sizes they wear.

The Rady Faculty has partnered in the sponsorship project with the Mennonite Central Committee, which has extensive experience with resettling refugees. “Our goal is for the family to have a warm welcome and a successful integration,” Katz says.

Several Arabic-speaking faculty members have stepped forward, eager to help the newcomer family settle and adjust.

“People within the health professions tend to want to help other people,” Katz says. “Many of us recognize that we are privileged, relatively high-earning people who can make contributions, financial and otherwise.”

Katz, a family physician and health services researcher, came to Canada as an immigrant 30 years ago. He had grown up in South Africa and witnessed the suffering caused by apartheid.

Being Jewish, he says, he was very troubled in the summer of 2015 by images of desperate Syrian people in the midst of a devastating war.

“I saw television pictures of homeless refugees being crammed onto trains,” he recalls. “I wasn’t alone in seeing parallels to the Holocaust. That really spoke to me very deeply and personally, and I felt that I wanted to do something about this.”

Once the sponsorship effort was launched, Katz says, “So many people stepped up to contribute, from across the Rady Faculty and beyond. I’m sure with this final push for donated items, we’ll be ready to give the family the best possible start in Canada.”

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