Salmon Arm experience shared at Revelstoke for Refugees film night

Revelstoke hears about Salmon Arm experience sponsoring Syrian refugees at emotional film night.

Amanda Hathorn-Geary

Earlier this month, Salmon Arm welcomed its first Syrian refugee. Mustafa Zakreet, 24, arrived in the Shuswap community about 10 days — the first of his family, which is one of seven the community is sponsoring.

“They saved my life,” he told the Salmon Arm Observer, when asked what it meant to arrive in Salmon Arm from a refugee camp in Lebanon. “I don’t know how to thank them.”

Salmon Arm has taken the plunge to sponsor Syrian refugees. They started with 15 people at a meeting in October, and by December, 50 people came out, representing 11 churches, two Rotary Clubs and one secular group who called themselves the pagans.

On Thursday, Revelstoke heard about the Salmon Arm experience during a film night hosted by Revelstoke for Refugees, the group that is trying to sponsor a family locally.

“It’s been a wonderful collaboration of the entire community,” said Brian Ayotte, the co-founder of the Salmon Arm Community Group. “We now have seven families being sponsored, and possibly two more.”

In Salmon Arm, the effort has been a community-wide collaboration. One refugee was sponsored by each Rotary Club, one by each of the United, Lutheran and Catholic churches, and three by consortiums.

They’ve reached out to the community to find job opportunities and set up a website where people can register to donate money, time, clothing and furniture. They have established committees to look after things like health care, education, language and employment. “Things have got very well organized and its moving along nicely,” said Ayotte.

Shuswap Settlement Services (SSS) has acted to support the efforts by answering questions from the public at their office.

“We found that answering questions and allaying people’s concerns has gone a long way to ease the idea of bringing families into Salmon Arm,” said Gudrun Malmqvist, from SSS.

She said a lot of people expressed concern the refugees would take jobs and housing from local families — both of which are in short supply. They’ve been trying to allay concerns and do outreach with the community.

“For us it’s been as big a learning curve as it’s been for the sponsoring groups,” she said. “We’re excited to welcome as many people as we’ve been able to get in Salmon Arm.”

Ayotte said it was important for Revelstoke for Refugees to keep the community together. “I think keeping the coalition in Salmon Arm together is very important,” he said. “That means you have to be comfortable with people saying things you don’t like or don’t agree with.”

PHOTO: From left: Kira Sawatzky, Beth Brodie, and Rogan Campbell from the Me 2 We group were on hand at the Revelstoke for Refugees film night to conduct a test. They asked people which two items they would take with them if they were a refugee. The most popular answers were a cellphone, tooth brush, photo album, and food.

In Revelstoke, more than $20,000 has been raised so far, including $1,791.55 from the film night. Revelstoke for Refugees hopes to raise $60,000 to support the first family in order to provide it with a living wage, but they can start the sponsorship process once they have about $30,000 in the bank.

The Alliance Church is acting as the Sponsorship Agreement Holder for the group.

Donations to Revelstoke For Refugees can be made through the Revelstoke Community Foundation website or at the Revelstoke Credit Union.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Revelstoke has launched a community well-being survey. (Contributed)
City launches community well-being survey

Everyone residing in Revelstoke aged 12 and over is invited to complete it

BC Liberal incumbent Doug Clovechok is seeking re-election as MLA for the Columbia River-Revelstoke riding in the provincial election. (File photo)
BC VOTES: Get to know BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok

Clovechok talks highways, housing, childcare and the environment

NDP candidate Nicole Cherlet on the campaign trail in Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap- Revelstoke Review)
BC VOTES: Q&A with BC NDP candidate Nicole Cherlet

Cherlet talks highways, housing, childcare and the environment

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Columbia River-Revelstoke Green Party candidate Samson Boyer. (Contributed)
BC VOTES: Q&A with BC Green Party candidate Samson Boyer

Boyer talks highways, housing, childcare and the environment

Vernon Fire Rescue Services and Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP were called to a report of an electrical fire at the emergency response centre operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society on 37th Street Sunday, Oct. 18, just before 5:30 p.m. The fire displaced shelter residents who have been set up with services at the Vernon Recreation Complex. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon shelter residents find refuge in hotels, motels, recreation complex after fire

Electrical fire at Turning Points Collaborative Society’s emergency response centre on 37th Street

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna man charged after allegedly stealing senior’s car

Elderly woman’s car was stolen while she was shopping

Salmon Arm RCMP say residents have been receiving calls from fraudster claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP warn of Publishers Clearing House telephone scam

Police say scammer requests fee to claim sweepstakes prizes

Osoyoos Fire Department responded to reports of a vehicle engulfed in flames Sunday (Oct. 18) evening at a Lambert Court residence. (Osoyoos Fire Department)
Osoyoos Fire Department knock down car fire near home

Blaze was ‘really close’ to becoming a structure fire

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels more Okanagan concerts

The Contenders and Colin James postponed until 2021

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

Most Read