The Town of Peace River is getting ready to welcome two families of Syrian refugees. Efforts have been spearheaded by the St. James Anglican Church and project manager Deb Prothero says they were able to choose the families from a group of applications.
“[We] made decisions based on the highest need based on the highest need expressed and if the parents of the families had some sort of job experience that might fit well into our community, so that we can kind of ramp them up quickly into our community.”
One of the families is considered “self-supporting, meaning they have enough money to support themselves. The other requires full support, and the church is working to fundraise the $25,000 the government says is needed.
More than 200 people have been working to furnish two townhouses with everything both families will need. Several people have also been taking workshops on trauma sensitivity, getting ready to help them get proper ID, and setting up an English as a Second Language committee.
“We have four retired educators who have committed to giving constant and regular tutoring support,” says Prothero. “Then we have the Horizon Learning Centre, who’s going conduct an ESL basics program for any volunteers in the community.”
Prothero admits people initially had concerns, but having helped settle 12 refugee families in her lifetime, she believes she was able to answer their questions. She herself is a new resident to the town and thinks they’re in a unique position to help as a smaller centre in the north.
“People sort of pull together around an idea, I think, maybe more so than in a larger centre. I just think that we need to open our hearts, welcome these people, and they will become members of our community and settle in here.”
The town will likely only get two or three days notice of when the new residents are coming. Anyone interested in helping out can email [email protected].