NEW GLASGOW, NS
Two local groups dedicated to bringing refugees to Pictou County are rolling out the welcome mat for seven Syrian families this month.
Safe Harbour Pictou County and CAIRN (Community Assisting Refugees) are working to settle all of the families in Pictou and New Glasgow.
Stephen MacKenzie, with CAIRN, which is located out of Pictou, said it is currently the process of setting up two homes in the town – one for a family of seven that includes five children ranging in age from 10 to two and a second family with two children, ages who are 18 months and three years.
“As far as we know they will be here Oct. 15 and we have a house for each of them,” he said, adding families are sponsored partly through the federal government and its Blended Visa Office-Referred Fund, which makes money available to groups like Safe Harbour and CAIRN to help cover their costs for refugee families.
This means the usual fundraising that a group such as CAIRN or Safe Harbour needs to do to host a family for a year is not required because the first 12 months are covered by the federal government and BVOR Fund.
“We are still involved in their settlement,” MacKenzie said.
Sarah MacIntosh Wisemen of Safe Harbour Pictou County said five families will be settling in the east end of New Glasgow when they arrive at various times this month.
She said it was decided to keep them all in a similar location because they will be in walking distance to stores and other services as well as each other and the children will all go to New Glasgow Academy.
They will be going to school with other Syrian children who are now bilingual, she said, adding the school is also looking at hosting a newcomers group for everyone who comes to the county.
Hosting seven families makes life busy for the volunteer groups, but it’s also an important step in building a sense of community for all newcomers, Wisemen said.
Safe Harbour Pictou County is going to work with existing community partners such as the Pictou County YMCA and the Nova Scotia Community College to create a new networking project that will show all new people in the county what services are available to them.
The new project will also include hiring a settlement services coordinator that will work with community groups and new families as well as have discussion with federal and provincial governments about meaningful contributions to the project.
“So one project for us is sponsoring families and the other is looking at how we can work with existing partners in the community to help build it into something. It is such a positive experience for so many individuals to help out and also employers are keen to come to the table,” she said.