This past Monday, students from every corner of the school put together two assemblies to inspire the student body to participate in WCI’s sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family. As outlined in a previous article, WCI will be partnering with the Mennonite Central Committee and Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs to co-sponsor a family with three or more children, one of whom will attend WCI when the family arrives in Canada.
The assemblies kicked off with a video that clearly described the crisis in Syria and Iraq, and why it is important for politically and economically stable countries to open their doors to these refugees. This was followed by details of how students can directly get involved or donate to the sponsorship as well as a moving group rendition of Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” that was backed by a slideshow of stirring photos of Syrian refugees hoping for safety and freedom.
During a tense moment of the presentation, laughter broke out between two students after a slide with a photo of a man crying was shown. It was not clear whether this was a reaction to the photo or chatter between the students; however, Dima N., who attended the first assembly, was still disappointed at the outburst.
“They live in Canada and there is no war,” Dima, who was born in Iraq and has lived in Syria and Jordan, explained following the assemblies. “In Syria, and in Iraq too, [people are] afraid to sleep […] because if they sleep, they don’t know if they will wake up again.”
Adnan N., a refugee who has recently arrived from Syria and was a part of the assemblies on Monday, believes that Canadians, for the most part, accurately understand the crisis in Syria.
“We have a global crisis that came into focus through media attention over the summer; typically WCI responds in those situations,” said Ms. Shortreed, who is managing housing and publicity on the Refugee Support Committee. “We have more capacity than most to help at a deeper level beyond fundraising.”
The assembles outlined many ways that students can donate their time or money to the cause and ultimately reach the $30,000 it will take to bring a Syrian family to Canada. Students can attend Fast for Freedom, an event that will be held in January, support someone who is participating, donate online through Canada Helps, volunteer with the Refugee Support Committee, or simply reach out to any newcomers.
Adnan commented on his new home, saying, “My life here is safe,” and “I hope any person [will] help me for my parents.” Adnan believes that that is all any refugee wants: to feel the safety in Canada that he feels and to be with one’s family, and WCI hopes to help a family achieve that.
After interviewing Adnan and his interpreter, Dima, I came to my own conclusion that, when Canadians see the millions of people trekking through Europe and boarding boats, they may often forget that each of these people has a story. Instead of focusing on helping Europe manage the masses of people crossing its borders, Canadians should focus on helping the individuals within the masses rebuild their lives. By helping to sponsor a family, WCI is doing just that and that is what makes this sponsorship so important.
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