Helping a group of Syrian refugee mothers with young children is the goal of a new advocacy group that has recently established in the Tri-Cities.
Nancy Furness, whose group is calling itself the Tri-Cities refugee welcome wagon though not affiliated with the greeting service, has been connected with three Syrian refugee families living in Coquitlam, said many issues need to be addressed if the newcomers are to integrate successfully.
"When they come over that's not the end of the story, that's the beginning," said Furness who said affordable housing and transportation are among the top concerns facing these women. But they also need help with the English language and mental health support.
The group has already provided some essentials, including shopping carts, car seats, bus passes and school supplies with funds raised in the community and put $500 towards helping victims of the July 28 Cottonwood Avenue apartment fire.
But more is needed added Furness, who said the women can easily become isolated although a small Syrian community seems to be developing in the Cottonwood area with the recent arrival of refugees.
Furness would like to see some space donated so the newcomers can get together socially.
Her group is also stepping up to provide rides to the food bank and to medical appointments. It's also reaching out to politicians of all stripes and at all levels to raise awareness and exchange information.
NDP politicians Selina Robinson (Coquitlam-Maillardvile MLA) and Fin Donnelly (Port Moody-Coquitlam MP) have been invited to speak at an upcoming fundraiser but Furness said her group is not political. At a previous fundraiser, Coquitlam-Port Coquitlam Liberal MP Ron McKinnon was the main speaker.
"We want to make sure they are connected with the community and they know what the challenges are," Furness said.
• The Tri-Cities Syrian Refugees Community Fundraiser will take place Saturday, Oct. 15 from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Coquitlam Legion, 1025 Ridgeway Ave. Food will be provided by Pasta Polo, and there will be raffles and prizes. Tickets are $30 and include food and drink. To purchase tickets visit, https://tricitiesbc.snapd.com/#/events/view/984474