Group bringing family to B.C.

Ladysmith residents trying to save three lives in Syria

The United Church of Canada has been trying to bring the residents of the El Hol refugee camp in Syria to Canada. A local group is sponsoring a family to come to the mid-Island.

It has been said that it takes a community to raise a child. It can also take a community to save a life.

A dedicated group of Ladysmith residents, in cooperation with the United Church of Canada, are trying to do just that — well, save three lives actually.

John and Kathy Potts have been through it before. The United Church members were involved in sponsoring a family to come to Canada and were approached to help with another. Now all the churches and their congregations in the area are pitching in to raise $23,000 to give a family a new life in Canada.

“They are a young family with a small baby,” said John Potts.

The cost is to look after them in Canada for a year. The family consists of Yousif, his wife Noor and their tiny little son, named Mohammad.

So far, the group has raised $19,000 in pledges with more than $10,000 of that in the bank.

The United Church of Canada has its eyes on the El Hol refugee camp in Syria tucked up against the border of Iraq and Turkey.

Its residents are all  Palestinian — whose ancestors settled in Iraq during the 1948 war — and fled Iraq after the war started in 2003. Palestinians remaining in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein were viewed as loyal to Hussein and fled the country fearing for their lives, said Potts.

“They became targets. They had to run for their lives,” said Potts. They ended up in Syrian refugee camps.

Now with all the trouble in Syria, Potts hopes they can get the family out before they are trapped.

“We are talking, I think, about saving their lives.”

There are still a few details to be worked out.

“One of the questions we are looking at is where exactly should they live,” said Potts, noting Nanaimo might be an obvious choice as there is an Islamic Centre and the family already has friends living there from the same camp. They will also be taking language classes there.

The application to bring the family here has already been submitted and, after passing the necessary Canadian channels, is now in the visa office in Damascus, Syria.

“We are waiting for notification that all the ducks are in a row and these people will be given a plane ticket and come,” said Potts.

Donations are being collected at all churches around town. Make sure to make cheques out to the Ladysmith First United Church and are dropped off at the church, 232 High Street. Tax receipts will be issued.

There will also be a fundraising concert at the church on November 6 at 2 p.m. Admission is by donation and all donations will be going to the family’s sponsorship fund. Featured performers include Lena Birtwistle and Evan Miller.

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