A Letter to the Editor of the Shoreline Beacon

In which we respond to a Saugeen Shores resident’s letter to the editor several weeks ago. Our response will be printed in tomorrow’s paper.

Dear Editor,

In last week’s paper, G. F. Erwin expressed his support for the resettlement of refugees from the Middle East. He stated that he believes Christian refugees are in greater need of assistance than their Muslim counterparts.

It is our position, as coordinators of the Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund, that the right thing to do is to offer help to people in need, regardless of their religious affiliation.
In terms of the family that we’ll be relocating to Saugeen Shores, we do not know if they’re Muslim or Christian, nor does it matter.

While it is true that many Christians in the Middle East have been targeted by Islamic State militants, Muslims have also experienced horrific treatment at their hands. There are accounts of Muslims being tortured and killed for offenses as slight as having a beard that’s too short. There was also the high-profile story of the Muslim Jordanian pilot, Lieutenant Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, who was burned alive last winter.

The family we will be relocating to Saugeen Shores has been placed on a high priority list by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and been referred to Canadian immigration officials for immediate relocation to safety.

They are in desperate need of our support, and we hope that this family will be welcomed by the community regardless of their personal beliefs.

Why place a condition upon our willingness to provide asylum? Our community stands to gain so much with this introduction of new customs, food, music, and lifestyle.

Sincerely,

Katherine Martinko & Elizabeth Davaze
Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund

Thank you to Bruce Power!

It was an exciting day on Tuesday, when we were presented with a very impressive donation from Bruce Power and its employees. Half was raised during a two-hour gate collection at the beginning of October, and the rest was matched by the company. We are so fortunate to have this fabulous and generous employer in our community.

(L-R) Katherine Martinko, Elizabeth Davaze, Margitta Lange, John Lange, Marina Angeli
(L-R) Katherine Martinko, Elizabeth Davaze, Margitta Lange, John Lange, Marina Angeli

Meeting Update

A Syrian family eats together in their home in the Al Waha Commercial Centre, an abandoned shopping centre in Dede Al Koura near the city of Tripoli. The residents live with few possessions in bare, tiled rooms that used to be shops. The centre is currently home to some 90 Syrian families and has been connected to a nearby municipal water tower with an erratic water supply.
A Syrian family eats together in their home in the Al Waha Commercial Centre, an abandoned shopping centre in Dede Al Koura near the city of Tripoli. The residents live with few possessions in bare, tiled rooms that used to be shops.
The centre is currently home to some 90 Syrian families and has been connected to a nearby municipal water tower with an erratic water supply.

Thanks to all who came to the meeting on Tuesday evening. There were lots of new people, which was wonderful to see. It seems that the desire to resettle a family here in Saugeen Shores is catching and many people want to get involved. Our next meeting is Monday, Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. at the United Church in Port Elgin.

The exciting news is that our group has been tentatively matched with a family profile. It’s a very large family, likely blended, of two parents and 11 children. As this point, we don’t have any further information. The family will start its interview process shortly, now that the Canadian government has been notified of our interest, and could possibly be here as soon as December or January.

We (Katherine and Elizabeth) felt that taking on a single larger family would be a better decision that opting for two smaller families. It’s also getting more difficult to find any families under 6 people.

The challenge now is to find a good housing solution for this family, which is much larger than originally anticipated. We need a single-family home, either furnished or unfurnished, at a reasonable and consistent monthly rent that will not fluctuate with the seasons. It must be affordable enough for them to maintain the cost once we’re no longer supporting them with our funds.

Ideally, this home would be located in a central location, close to the downtown core of Port Elgin (where most of the core support group lives), within easy walking distance of both elementary and high schools, as well as grocery stores.

It doesn’t have to be huge. When you consider the conditions in which this family is currently living, nearly any home at this point will feel wonderfully comfortable by comparison. If you have any ideas, please let us know. Email saugeen.refugeefund@gmail.com.

UPCOMING FUNDRAISERS

Kids’ Halloween Party will be held at the Port Elgin United Church on Oct. 31, 10 am – 1 pm. Please email above for tickets. $10/child or $25/three kids

Benefit Concert: “From Classical to Contemporary,” on November 7 at 7 p.m. at the United Church in Port Elgin.

A dream come true

It’s been only three weeks since we met at my house for the initial refugee sponsorship info night and I am overjoyed to announce that WE’VE MET OUR $20K TARGET!!! It feels like Christmas came early. The Bruce Power gate collection today brought in over $9000.

Since the money is still coming in, and the serious fundraising ventures are only just getting started, now’s the time to announce that we’re going for a 2nd family, too! More details to follow at next Tuesday’s meeting.

mother and child

I’ll be speaking at Saugeen Shores Town Council next Tuesday at 7:30 (just before our 8 pm meeting). Whoever wants to show up there to back our cause is more than welcome. It would be good for Council to see the public interest. Otherwise, I hope to see you back at the Port Elgin United Church by 8 p.m.

Thank you to everyone who’s pitching in to make this happen. I seriously can’t believe how fast it’s all happened… Goes to show what determination can accomplish.

Beautiful Acts of Generosity

Syria: children speak from Zaatari refugee camp - video

Fundraising is HARD. It’s my first time ever doing it seriously, and I have newfound respect for people who do this full-time and/or rely on fundraising to fuel their work. What an emotionally exhausting task it is.

For all the times I feel frustrated (and it happens more frequently than I’d like to admit!), there are incredible acts of generosity that seem to come out of nowhere and take me by surprise. They make up for all the challenges and are lovely reminders of how kind, compassionate, and loving human beings can be.

Today, for example, I got a phone call from a woman who’d read in the paper about our Refugee Fund. She told me her story, about how she was an infant in Prussia when her parents were forced to flee their home at gunpoint in wintertime. Her family of 7 people was dispersed throughout Europe, but eventually managed to reunite, all alive, at the end of World War 2.

She spoke of the generosity of strangers who helped her family along their brutal and terrifying journey, and expressed a desire to do the same for others. Now she lives in Canada and is retired, and has a large empty basement apartment that she wants to rent at a greatly reduced cost to our future refugee family.

Our conversation gave me goosebumps. I cannot relate to such personal tragedy or hardship, but I could hear the conviction in her voice and her determination to help, and it moved me deeply.

***

The phone has been ringing all day. We’re getting some serious news coverage, which is wonderful. Today, the Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund was featured on the front page of the Owen Sound Sun Times. You can read the article here. We were also covered by the local Shoreline Beacon this week, and I was interviewed earlier today by the Owen Sound radio station.

The local children’s boutique, Bicyclette Rouge, will be matching all donations made to our fund during this weekend, which is extra-awesome because it’s Pumpkinfest — one of Port Elgin’s busiest weekends of the year. So if you’ve been wanting to shop AND donate, now’s the time!

We will also be set up at Pumpkinfest all weekend, in front of the Chamber of Commerce, so drop by to say hello.

Just remember: the sooner we get this money, the faster a family can leave a refugee camp and come to our beautiful town… perhaps in time for Christmas. What a wonderful gift to all of us that would be.

You can make a donation here.