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Syrian Refugee Committee succeeds with Robson Hall profs at helm

May 13, 2016 — 

 

On April 24, Professors Mary Shariff and Michelle Gallant received the St. Paul’s College (SPC) Rector’s Medal for their work as co-chairs of the SPC Syrian Refugee Committee.

But for the professors, the work itself was more important than the award.

“For us, service to members of our human family – particularly the marginalized – is an obligation, and is its own reward,’ said Professor Michelle Gallant. “It’s a great privilege to work with such an extraordinary group of individuals at St. Paul’s and out in the community.”

In collaboration with five organizations including a number of church groups and others in Winnipeg, the group is coordinating sponsorship of a family of six newcomers.

Syrian refugees find themselves caught in circumstances they did not want nor create, cast from their homes, their cities, their cultures. The group in Winnipeg just wanted to do something to help out and we knew we could.

“We’re also sponsoring a local family to help bring some of their relatives to Winnipeg,” said Prof. Gallant. “Arriving families need everything – from a place to live to healthcare to education to learning English. They need help acclimatizing to things as mundane as using the banking system and knowing where to buy food.”

According to the professors, the generosity of everyone involved in this venture is extraordinary.

“The amazing people at St. Paul’s College are so overwhelmingly willing to do just about anything that is asked,” said Prof. Gallant. “Any one of us will one day find ourselves in need.

“Syrian refugees find themselves caught in circumstances they did not want nor create, cast from their homes, their cities, their cultures. The group in Winnipeg just wanted to do something to help out and we knew we could.”

The Robson Hall professors’ work in these sponsorship efforts includes coordinating donations, finding housing and local resources – such as language training and Arabic-speaking doctors – among a host of other duties.

“They kept spreadsheets of everything a family of six would need,” said Dean of Studies Moti Shojania. “Everything from pots, pans, dishes, bedding and furniture to games, toys and cleaning supplies – I can’t tell you how inspiring it was to see what these superwomen accomplished,” said St. Paul’s College Dean of Studies Moti Shojania. “They organized contacts with doctors, dentists, schools, volunteer drivers for medical appointments and a welcome committee for the family’s arrival at the airport.

“It was deeply moving to see the intelligence, wisdom and grace they brought to this project, and the humility with which they accepted thanks and praise. It was a privilege for all of us to be a part of this wonderful effort.”

The Syrian Refugee Initiative continues to invite new members and supporters. Visit their site.

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