People in Kelowna are coming together to better support refugees in the area.
On Saturday, March 12th, 65 volunteers met at the Okanagan College to talk about ways they can help refugee families coming to the Okanagan.
People of all ages turned up, something organizers said they were very happy to see.
“It shows that Kelowna is ready to step up and help,” said Norah Bowman, from the Okanagan Refugee Coalition for Advocacy (ORCA).
ORCA made the event happen, with the support of Kelowna Community Resources (KCR) and the Okanagan College Faculty Association (OCFA).
People at the meeting underwent a problem-solving activity, where they were presented with day-to-day challenges refugee families are likely to face.
ESL training, job-market help, childcare, trades certification, and affordable housing were picked as the most important community efforts that can help to welcome newcomers.
“ORCA is building teams, or ‘pods’, to support refugees, much like an extended family,” said Francis Langevin, also with the organization.
One of the ways people can get involved is through family to family volunteering.
“The Syrian family that we sponsored are some of our closest friends in Kelowna now,” said Jamie Henderson, during the Q&A panel.
“They reminded us of the joy that is available in community and to slow down and take time out of our busy schedules to just enjoy each other's company.”
Henderson is part of groups sponsoring two families with the help of the Mission Creek Alliance.
“Kelowna is a city with huge capacity, resources, and a heart to give back,” she continued. “While we cannot solve the entire crisis, we can do our fair share to include these families, who are just like our own, in the privilege that we enjoy as Canadians.”
Syrian-Canadian Alya Ramadan was there to talk about what it was like when she moved to Kelowna.
“The friendship network these new families and individuals build makes a huge difference in our community,” she said.
Settlement and Immigration Services from KCR and representatives from the Kelowna Islamic Center were also at the event.
“It is very heartwarming to see how many different organisations have come up to offer their support, people from very different backgrounds and faiths,” said Khalid Arriani, President of the Islamic Center.
ORCA is a local volunteer group focused on welcoming people, and creating diverse and flourishing communities. People can get more information, and sign up, at the group’s website.