WATCH ABOVE: Global’s Marieke Walsh caught up with one group from Hubbards which is trying to bring two Syrian families to Nova Scotia.
HALIFAX -A community group in Hubbards is one of dozens across the province that is now hoping to sponsor Syrian refugees.
The group was spurred into action after seeing the picture of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s body being carried off a beach.
“It was the spark for the community,” said Shelly Whitman, one of the organizers.
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“It’s not that people hadn’t been thinking about this issue or seeing the images of other migrants. That certainly has been something that people in the community have talked about. But I think that the political will and the momentum was certainly driven by that image.”
Whitman and a core group of people have started a fundraising campaign to bring two Syrian refugee families to Hubbards. At its first meeting over the Labour Day long weekend, the group had 61 people show up and offer financial and organizational help.
The Immigration Services Association of Nova Scotia says its been inundated with phone calls from groups like the one in Hubbards asking how they can help Syrian refugees.
In the last three days, ISANS says its received 35 phone calls from individuals and groups who want to sponsor Syrian refugees to come to the province. That’s a marked difference from just a week ago when the organization rarely got a call from the general public.
“We’ve had an amazing response from the public. Our phone has been ringing constantly since Thursday,” said Evelyn Jones, refugee sponsorship coordinator for ISANS.
“We’ve had so many people call and say, ‘What can we do to help?’”
Whitman said the group needs to raise $70,000 in order to sponsor two families to come to Nova Scotia. She said the goal is to raise all of the money by January.
Despite the large amount that must be collected, Jones said she’s been impressed by how much money some groups have already raised.
“I’ve been hearing from people in the community that they’re having immediate commitment of donations,” she said.
Sponsoring refugees, and getting them to Canada can be a complicated process. ISANS, helps people who are making the application, navigate the system and helps them prepare for the arrival of the refugees.
“Sponsorship is not an overnight thing, they are making a commitment to be with the family before they get here, and while they’re here,” said Jones.
The federal government is speeding up the process for settling Syrian refugees. However, even with that Jones said she has seen it take anywhere from a couple of months to two years to bring Syrian refugees to Canada.
The United Nations says the Syrian refugee crisis is on a scale not seen since the second world war. Since January, Nova Scotia has settled 11 refugees. But, 44 more refugees are still having their paper work processed, said Jones. The province asked the federal government to let it settle more refugees but Ottawa hasn’t responded to the request.
ISANS is holding an information session for Nova Scotians who want to sponsor refugees on September 16.