The Syrian refugee crisis has been prevalent in the media lately, along with Canada’s response. Our new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has committed to providing shelter for 25,000 refugees who will arrive in Canada in the coming months. Of these, approximately 2,300 will make Calgary their new home*. Last week, sixteen refugees arrived, reuniting with family they have not seen in years. The Alberta government has recently earmarked an extra million dollars to assist our new neighbours. We are fortunate to live in a great country/province/city, dedicated to helping newcomers of all kinds.

On November 19, over 400 people attended a public forum in Calgary about the coming refugees. Mayor Naheed Nenshi was interviewed by Macleans magazine** the following day and had this to say: “But today I had a meeting this morning where we had a community forum on refugees. And I was a little bit nervous walking in because it was an open invitation, anybody could come, and I thought there might be some angry people or people with a lot of very difficult questions. And who was there were churches and synagogues and temples and mosques and grandmothers and volunteers and people from across the community, who were just asking the same question, which is by the way still by far the most common question I get, how can I help?

So, how can we help? CBC Calgary recently offered some great tips*** to get you started, we’ve paraphrased them below:

  1. Knit warm clothes for newcomers. Many are unaccustomed to our winters.
  2. Donate clothes, furniture and bedding. You can drop them off at service organizations that support all Calgarians, such as the Women in Need Society, Neighbourlink, The Salvation Army, Value Village and Project Warmth.
  3. If you’d rather donate cash, the Federal government has a Syria Emergency Relief Fund and the Alberta government has a program to help Syrian refugees. The Federal government also has a list on their website of Canadian charities and local organizations who support newcomers.
  4. You can also volunteer to help newcomers who don’t speak English to learn the languageWe offer excellent training programs for volunteers in your church or community who are working with newcomers, including Reaching Out with English and Intercultural Communication workshops. Find out more on our website or contact Bev at 403-999-3641. Other options include giving rides to refugees, taking them to the church or mosque, taking them shopping or offering to babysit. Several groups are coordinating volunteer efforts including: CCISCentre for NewcomersCIWAImmigrant Services CalgarySyrian Refugee Support Group.
  5. Help them find housing. While the rental market has eased up in the past few months, it’s still a tight market in Calgary. 
  6. Consider sponsoring a refugee. Check out the Federal governments Sponsoring Syrian Refugees page for more information.
  7. Most importantly, help them feel welcome in our city.   
The City of Calgary also has a page dedicated to Syrian refugees on their website.  

All Calgarians can play a part in helping our new neighbours settle in. CESLM is proud to be a part of the efforts to help our newest neighbours. If you are interested in booking an Intercultural Communication workshop to help your church and community better understand cultural differences, please contact us. Workshops can be customized to your organization or toward a particular cultural group.