Chilliwack is scrambling to do its part to help Syrian refugees.
It’s happening on several levels at once, as the federal Liberal government pledged Canada would accept 25,000 pre-screened refugees before the year is out.
The province in turn said it will be ready for 3,500 from Syria and Iraq.
Support at this early stage is coming from some Chilliwack-oriented groups.
One called “Chilliwack Refugee Support” was started by Wayne Froese on social media to organize and discuss issues at the grass roots level.
“This group is focused on discussing how we can support that, and how to encourage our new government to stay the course and keep the 25,000-refugee commitment,” said Froese.
Part of the effort to coalesce support locally is the desire to counter some of the anti-refugee rhetoric that’s bubbled up.
“This is tragic, as it only adds to the suffering of the people least responsible: the refugees,” noted Froese. “Civil war in Syria has been raging for four years, pre-dating ISIS’ involvement by two years, resulting in four million refugees finding their way to Europe.
“They desperately need our help.”
There is expected to be some provincial funding, about $1 million, aside from the federal pledges.
Housing availability will be tough in Chilliwack, with limited rental stock as it is. Hundreds of units will be required across B.C. and there is talk of looking at emergency shelter beds.
Another social media community called Refugees and Chilliwack, or “REaCH” is working to unite support from Chilliwack to help a Syrian family.
“Chilliwack citizens! Let’s share our good fortune and work together to bring a Syrian family into our community,” according to the group page.
“We need numbers behind us as we work towards fundraising goals and needed items for the first refugee family that Chilliwack is able to sponsor.”
The online Facebook community will be used to communicate by reaching out “to a family that will soon be here with us, away from the insanity and desperation of the life they are living now.
“Open your hearts, and get ready to be a part of the light in this dark time in history.
“Together we can, and will create real change.”
The Reach community said it will be “mobilizing” soon.
Still another level of Chilliwack support is coming from the faith sector, an initiative called “Chilliwack Cares”. It is being spearheaded by Verne Tompke, pastor of Vineyard Community Church, and will be rolling out some local efforts soon.