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Over 400 people pack Wenjack for Syrian Symposium

In September, Peterborough’s New Canadian Centre (NCC) held a workshop on Refugee Sponsorship. The outcome was so successful that almost forty private sponsorship groups exist in and around Peterborough County.

These groups came together on Thursday, January 7 to “celebrate their work and offer a forum for learning, discussion, and brainstorming,” read the press release issued on January 4.

Cam Douglas and Chantal Bouillon, in partnership with the NCC, organized the symposium. Over 400 people crowded the Wenjack Theatre, eager to help Syrian families coming to Canada.

Liberal MP Maryam Monsef opened the symposium by acknowledging the stolen Indigenous Land upon which we are living, working, and learning. Her recognition of the land, led into her presentation about the importance of sharing the land, and respecting and welcoming one other.

“We are coming together as a community. We are coming together as a country… That is a gift,” said Monsef, with a look of pride towards the attendees.

Presentations by Hajni Hos and Michael VanDerHerberg of the NCC, Bishop William McGrattan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peterborough, and Dr. Kenzu Abdella, President of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association, followed.

Representatives of the NCC described the refugee sponsorship groups as telephone posts allowing and assisting new Canadian families to connect to their new way of life, Douglas reminisced over a phone interview on January 14.

Dr. Abdella explained the Mosque’s efforts to provide translators for new families, and Bishop McGrattan presented the ways in which the Roman Catholic Diocese of Peterborough is supporting new families and sponsorship groups.

Following presentations, attendees divided into eleven groups throughout the Trent University campus to discuss and share ideas, experiences, and challenges.

Douglas describes the main challenges as relating to resource access, including interpretations and school integration.

Ensuring that Peterborough schools are prepared to accommodate and welcome Syrian children is one of the many large tasks that the sponsoring groups are working to complete.

The NCC regularly pairs new Canadians with community volunteers to help improve their skills and understanding of English or French. English tutors and English-Arabic interpreters are in high demand right now with some refugee families already settled in Peterborough and still more to arrive!

NCC employees and volunteers assist with training, funding, answering questions, and helping to allocate donations and housing in order to ease the transition into a new life.

NCC is looking for landlords interested in providing low-cost or free housing for Peterborough’s arriving families (temporary or long-term).

Community members able to donation their time by providing transportation or helping to move and/or lift are wanted, too.

Peterborough’s Habitat for Humanity is accepting furniture and appliances, while St. Vincent de Paul is accepting clothing, toys, and other small items.

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