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Help Syrian refugees, Coquitlam meeting told

Group urges Tri-City residents to get involved in resettling Syrian refugees, offers ways to get involved
Humanity4Syrians
Iris Challoner, foreground, and her colleagues from left, Lola Kharma, Emily Collacott and Atania Kharma, have formed a group called Humanity4Syrians to encourage groups and individuals to sponsor refugees from Syria. They held a meeting at Eagle Ridge United Church in Coquitlam Tuesday night to provide information on the best way to get involved in resettling refugees.

It's time for Canadians to step up and help resettle some of the 4 million Syrian refugees languishing in refugee camps around the world, says a local group called Humanity4Syrians.

At a meeting held at Eagle Ridge United Church in Coquitlam on Tuesday night, the group offered ideas for people to get involved in the humanitarian crisis.

Iris Challoner, who helped resettle a Syrian woman and her two children through her church this past spring, encouraged individuals to join forces with agencies already working with refugees — sponsorship agreement holders approved by the Canadian government — or to assist her group in its efforts to sponsor another family.

People can also help refugee families already in Canada with small tasks, such as helping them get adjusted or linking them with services, Challoner said, such as providing free dentistry, as her group was able to do for their sponsored family.

"I know for a fact that this congregation changed that day (when the sponsored family arrived from Syria)" Challoner said. "They (the family) made a difference in my life, too" she said.

Atania Kharma, who with Eagle Ridge United Church sponsored her widowed sister and her children and still has family in Syria, says she feels guilty to be safe in Canada, where she moved 10 years ago, while her family back home is suffering due to the four-year civil war that has seen over 200,000 people killed.

Humanity4Syrians, which formed two weeks ago as the media spotlight turned on the family of Coquitlam's Tima Kurdi, the aunt of the drowned Syrian boy, wants to do more for Syrians and is looking for others to help.

Other things people can do, Challoner suggested, is to get a group together to sponsor a refugee, putting up the $27,000 for a family of four for a year, and helping them get settled.

But there are other less costly ways to get involved, too, she said, such as assisting agencies already sponsoring refugees and donating to non-profit organizations that work in refugee camps.

People who are good at paperwork are also needed to help with applications, and Challoner said she will train them, and supporters are also needed to help lobby for change to the government's refugee process.

"We want to stand together and give you (refugees) a voice, we want to stand behind you to help you scream louder," Challoner said.

"We are committed to helping in any way we can," she added.

To get involved, email the group at Humanity4syrians@outlook.com