Collingwood is now home to eight families of Syrian and Iraqi newcomers
Welcome to the Collingwood Syrian Sponsorship Committee
The Collingwood Syrian Sponsorship Committee has sponsored two Syrian and one Iraqi family, as well as assisting five other families since June 2016. All of the families are supporting themselves through employment and/or entrepreneurial ventures. The children attend school and the adults participate in ESL classes when they are not working.
In the past, we had thought that perhaps the newcomer families would decide to move to another place with a larger cultural community for them to connect with. However, so far the three families we sponsored have chosen to stay here, as has the family sponsored by First Presbyterian Church. As well, three other families have moved here on their own, hearing Collingwood is a welcoming community. One of these families was originally sponsored by a group in Thornbury in early 2016 and his brother was also sponsored by the Thornbury group and arrived in August 2019.
In just over three years, the newcomers have begun to find their place in this community, are employed and have given back in so many ways. These families support each other and are open to welcoming other newcomers who come to town. Despite often very different backgrounds, they understand the trauma of being uprooted by war, forced to escape one’s homeland and search for a safe place to live. We are thankful that some of the newcomers are able to act as translators for the newer arrivals and help them understand the way of life in our community.
We have a network of dedicated volunteers who have helped all the families settle. In doing so, we have found the commitment to help others has nurtured our own sense of wellbeing and expanded our world views. There are many tasks to be done, from driving to appointments, to helping with English, to providing computer support, to just being a friend and neighbour.
The initial outpouring of support from the broader community for the refugee families was astounding and, equally importantly, has remained strong. With that support, all of the families have been able to locate housing, schools, and employment. The Simcoe County Board of Education now provides an English as a Second Language (ESL) course four mornings a week to help the newcomers enhance their language skills. As well, the SPICE program at the Collingwood Public Library provides additional ESL help on a one-to-one basis with the assistance of senior volunteers. With a good command of the English language, the opportunity for better jobs increases. Learning English is really a newcomer’s job for the first year and, therefore, it is the initial focus upon arrival. Once a basic level of English is achieved, finding employment is much easier. Working also helps to improve language skills and gives the individual a positive sense of self as they are able to make their way in a new place.
In May 2019, we were fortunate to receive funding through the Southern Georgian Triangle chapter of 100 Women Who Care to assist the newcomer families to adjust to life here. After experiencing the trauma of war, assistance can now be provided to help develop self-esteem, reduce social isolation and increase integration with our community as well as into other cultural communities in Ontario. We are very grateful for this generous donation.
• Assist in covering international travel costs to Collingwood
• Provide temporary, appropriate housing in Collingwood
• Provide food for the families during their initial settling-in period
• Transportation as required
• Counselling as needed
• Access to English as a Second Language classes and tutoring
• Assistance with pre-school or daycare as needed
• Assistance with schooling as needed
• Initial assistance with health costs not covered by OHIP
• Assistance in securing full-time employment
Our Syrian Sponsorship Committee has access to many resources that have helped reduce some of the above costs. We do not need further donations of household furnishings or clothing. Please check our website regularly for updates for requests for needed goods and services.
In the summer of 2018, the Diyab and Issa families celebrated their first year in Canada at a picnic including all of our Syrian newcomers plus many from Collingwood's two volunteer committes that sponsored them.
The Kurdish Tambur being played by a newcomer whose family of five chose a welcoming Collingwood as their new home.