It is not known yet how many Syrian refugees will eventually resettle in Chilliwack.
But volunteers and resources are being quickly corralled in Chilliwack, with at least two local fundraisers in December to help sponsor a war-torn family.
Immigration Minister John McCallum clarified refugee numbers on Tuesday, still at 25,000 expected to reach Canada, but slowing the speed of the process somewhat with only 10,000 by the end of the year.
“It’s a huge undertaking for a short period of time to complete that kind of resettlement effort,” said April Neave, who coordinates Immigrant Services for Chilliwack Community Services.
They are still in a “wait and see” mode, until the federal government announced details on the resettlement plan.
In the meantime, the local Community Services is part of a larger umbrella group now creating a “provincial map of current and potential capacity of communities to resettle Syrian refugees,” in the short term and longer term, Neave explained.
Many want to help.
“What I’d like to put out there is a call for volunteers who are looking to help in some way to contact our offices to be put on a list,” she said.
They are not accepting donations of clothes or used items at Community Services at this time, she underlined. They’re mainly looking for volunteers who have coordination and organization skills, and those with Arabic language skills, for example.
Staff staff will be taking down names, numbers, area of interest and emails of would-be volunteers. To get put on the CCS volunteer list, call 604-393-3251.
The REaCH group, Refugees and Chilliwack, is trying to raise the basic $30,000 to sponsor one family by covering their living costs for one year.
Spokesperson Amber Price said she teamed up with Eleasha Sabourin and Daris Lapointe, to raise funds to help one family settle here with a grass roots community-driven effort, through REaCH.
“It has been incredible to witness the outpouring of generosity and support,” Price said about Chilliwack’s volunteer force, now stepping forward to help.
They’ve organized two main events so far, a Black Tie Event at Bravo Restaurant, Dec. 8 with dinner, speakers, entertainment and silent auction. Tickets are $150. A second fundraiser is the Burger & a Beer event, at Society Gathering House, Dec. 16 with a 50/50 draw, silent auction and live entertainment. Tickets are $25.
Sponsorship funds are obtainable, but it will take many hands to make it happen.
“We will be responsible for their financial and community needs as they integrate into the community of Chilliwack,” said Price. “From connecting them with services for their health, such as physician, dentist and optometry, to helping them enroll in ESL courses and schools for their children, we will be there to provide support as they navigate a new cultural and geographical map.”
They will also need help finding employment and more.
“We will invite them into our homes for dinner, ensure that they have someone to grocery shop with, take a bus with, and feel comfortable and confident as they find their ways here,” Price added.
The Chilliwack Islamic Centre is also on-board, and as part of the larger B.C. Muslim Association, they are also working to sponsor refugees, and collect medical equipment to ship. Located at B-45845 Yale Road near downtown, the centre will be a useful local resource, says spokesperson Dr. Osama Ebesh.
He said they will concentrate on offering translation services for Arabic speakers, halal food sources, and transportation assistance. To help with those efforts, volunteers can call 604-701-2014.
To contact REaCH, email email@example.com, or go to http://www.refugeesandchilliwack.com or call 604-791-9405. There’s a GoFundMe account and a bank account with Envision at Garrison for REaCH, with all funds going directly to the costs of sponsoring a family.