Houston supports refugees

A group in Houston has emerged to help support Syrian refugees. The group began December 2015 and since has raised $35,000.

A group in Houston has emerged to help support Syrian refugees. The group began December 2015 and since has raised $35,000.

“We asked for donations, we also applied for a couple of grants, and received some from Dungate Community Forests, Bulkley Valley Credit Union, and other corporate sponsors. But we’ve had individuals donate up to $5000,” said Bobbie Seinen, a member of the group.

Through a Canadian resident from Syria, the group has been in contact with a woman and her two sons to help them make their way to Canada. Ramia, a single mother with her one year and four year old sons, recently tried to cross the border out of Syria into Lebanon but were turned back due to a scratch on her passport photo.

Ramia lost her husband last year when ISOL attacked their village. He went to the roof to see what was happening and was caught in the crossfire.

“There are obstacles for Ramia. Security is the biggest, because she is a single woman with two young boys. So moving from a town where she has some support is a high risk. Money to survive the waiting period, which could be anywhere from10 months to seven years now that the government’s quota has been met. And she might be reticent to register with theUnited Nations, which is a common problem,” said Seinen.

Due to Ramia’s hesitation with trying to cross the border again, the group has been exploring alternative options for the funds to be utilized in Syria.

“There’s $25 million across Canada that’s in trust right now from groups like ours. That’s the amount of money we have raised as Canadians, and these are not necessarily Canadians in urban centres. And [the people in Syria] need that money now,” said Sienen

The group has looked into the Blended Visa Office Referral, which fast tracks people with great medical needs, but feel that this would not be the best option, and difficult to support in rural Houston, as someone like this would require frequent trips to Prince George and Vancouver.

The group also tried to go through a family resettlement program. The government sends out an extensive list of people that includes where they live, who their extended family are, what their education is, etc., but there are presently no Syrian refugees living in Houston.

Sending supplies to refugee camps was another alternative, but rarely do the supplies make it there, and the group feels an obligation to their sponsors to ensure that they are getting the best use of their money.

Recently the United Nation’s Refugee Agency has launched a program called Transformation Initiative. An iris scan system that delivers cash into the hands of refugees at the ATM. Out of every $100 donated, $97 goes directly to the refugee families to help pay for rent, food, medical supplies, and whatever else their needs may be.

At this time, the group is waiting to hear back from Ramia on when she thinks she will be ready to try again to cross the border, and have informed her about the Transformation Initiative that she will have access to.

If you are interested in getting involved, the Houston group to Support Syrian Refugees meets every Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Nadina Community Features.