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Stouffville Cares wraps up Syrian Refugee sponsorship program with celebration

Stouffville Cares, the community-based refugee sponsorship group founded out of the Syrian refugee crisis, has wrapped up its work with a celebration.

The non-denominational organization, which was founded in 2015, brought 20 Syrian refugees in five families to our community. All related, they all still live in Stouffville.

Stouffville Cares celebrated its work with a dinner and reception at Christ Church Anglican on Sunday, June 23.

The Fandi family, the very refugees sponsored by Stouffville Cares, catered the event with a large buffet of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Mayor Iain Lovatt presents Sarah Carrick (right) and Rev. Joan Masterton of Stouffville Cares with a certificate commemorating the organization’s work in settling Syrian refugees in the community.

Mayor Iain Lovatt presented Sarah Carrick, the chairperson of Stouffville Cares and Rev. Joan Masterton of St. James Presbyterian Church with a certificate commemorating the organization’s work.

As a town councillor, Lovatt attended the public launch of Stouffville Cares at St. James in 2015.

St. James had begun the process of sponsoring refugees through its national church offices before the Syrian crisis became big news.

Stouffville United and Christ Church were the other congregations who backed Stouffville Cares.

But the organization extended well beyond the three churches.

“It’s important that we take the time as a community to celebrate,” said Rev. Masterton. “It’s been a joy to work through this process. It’s been a joy to meet each other across this community. It’s been a wonderful community-bonding exercise.”

“It’s hugely difficult for our families to integrate into Canadian society but they have done it and done it so well. Young people have graduated and are heading for higher education. Older folk are working and living their lives.  Six babies have been born, and many of our newcomers are now Canadian citizens.”

“Quite a journey indeed from 2015 to now,” said Carrick,. “There are a million stories and they are all so inspiring.”

“It’s bittersweet wrapping up Stouffville Cares, but it’s really amazing how it morphed and evolved from us thinking were just going to bring over a few people to being able to raise so much money that we could bring over (this extended) family.”

Carrick thanked the community for its support including backing a soup luncheon fundraiser at the Royal Canadian Legion in 2016.

Aside from cash, residents assisted finding accommodations, furnishings and jobs for the 20-plus Fandis. One couple donated a used car.

Imam Zafar Bangash of the Islamic Society of York Region thanked Stouffville Cares for “not only welcoming so many Syrian families but also guiding them through settling in Canada. Of course, they came from such a traumatic experience in Syria and it’s not easy for people that have been in wars to be able to adjust to a new environment.”

Nariman Fandi and her daughter, Ranim, members of the first family sponsored by Stouffville Cares, thanked the volunteers at the celebration.

“Stouffville Cares did a lot for our family. They made my children’s future,” Nariman told the gathering. “Everyone knows, there has been war in my country for almost 30 years. We did not see a future for my family there.

“We came to Canada and all started a new life here with a new future. Thanks to everyone who helped all of us. They did a great job.”

Ranim, who graduated from Stouffville District Secondary School this month and will attend college this fall, thanked the volunteers who assisted the family, including help with homework, ESL classes, driving and setting up appointments.

“We really appreciated it,” she said. “Without you, we would not be where we are today.”

 

Photo: Stouffville Cares celebrates its work with a dinner and reception at Christ Church Anglican on June 23. Volunteers and Syrian refugees sponsored by the organization attended the celebration.

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