SUMMERSIDE – Work is underway to bring a family of four from Iraq to Summerside.
A volunteer committee from St. Paul’s Parish is planning a series of fundraising events to help take care of the family once they arrive in the city.
Committee member, Meghan Bowen, said the family is originally from Iraq but are now in a refugee camp in Syria.
They are Chaldean Christians, said Bowen, explaining that this religion “is a branch of Catholicism but it’s not Roman (Catholic).
“They were a religious minority in Iraq and because of that they were persecuted, particularly after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government. They fled from Iraq into Syria as refugees trying to get away from the religious persecution,” added Bowen. “Within a few months of arriving in Syria as refugees, the civil war… broke out and they’ve been trapped there in a refugee camp in Damascus.”
Bowen said the effort to bring the family to the Island started at the diocesan level.
“The bishop and his office, they decided to sponsor three families from Iraq,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for the church to do this. They have sponsored refugee families from different countries before, and where St. Paul’s Parish is one of the larger parishes on the Island, we’re able to support a family within the parish itself. So, we ended up taking one of the families.”
The family consists of a mother, father, a daughter, 14, and a son aged 12.
Bowen guessed it will be between 12 and 18 months before the family will arrive in Summerside.
“As far as I understand, for the first year they would stay in Summerside,” Bowen said. “We would be responsible for taking care of them. We’ll be providing them with a house, helping out with money for the regular bills… Also, we’re going to be helping them with English language training and the process of getting citizenship.
“Once that first year is done, they’re free to choose where they want to go. They can stay here or move to a different part of the country.”
The committee is trying to raise a minimum of $20,000 to finance the family for the first year.
“Our first main fundraiser is a benefit auction that will be held on Saturday, Nov. 3,” at 2 p.m., Bowen said. It will be held in the parish centre, attached to the church.
“We’ve been very fortunate in that many businesses in the area have donated lots of different things for us to auction off.”
She said there will be clothing, electronics, home décor, and gift certificates.
More fundraising events are being planned for the new year.