KELOWNA – Syrian refugees will become an even more familiar sight in Kelowna in the coming days.
B.C. is preparing for an influx of refugees, with approximately 1,100 expected in the next 10 days. Close to half of them will be settled in Metro Vancouver, but many will be coming to the valley.
While the exact number of refugees are unknown, at least 30 will be arriving in both Kelowna and Vernon by the end of the month.
Kelowna Community Resources says housing has been secured for the five families coming to the their area, and Jamie Henderson with the Okanagan Refugee Coalition for Advocacy (ORCA) believes Kelowna is more than ready to welcome them.
“With the sponsor groups that have already sponsored and the families coming they had two days notice, so ten days seems like a dream right now in comparison,” she says.
The Syrian refugees reported to be heading to Vernon will also arrive by end of February, but immigration services staff in Vernon haven’t confirmed those numbers.
They will still need help from the community, so various groups are banding together to support them.
“It’s really important that we use a community approach, so we are working together with many different community partners, school districts, Interior Health, language classes, private sponsorship groups,” says Katelin Mitchell, Immigrant Services Manager with Kelowna Community Services.
As the federal government’s deadline for resettling 25,000 refugees approaches, a new Angus Reid Poll indicates Canadians are divided about the plan.
“Support is the highest in British Columbia, it’s also highest in Atlantic Canada and the provinces in between are not wholly unsupportive but certainly some are more reticent than others,” says Executive Director for Angus Reid Institute, Shachi Kurl.
“Communities and towns that are losing their populations are putting their hands up and saying ‘send people to us.‘”
While helping to settle the refugees can be a lot of work, Henderson says much of it comes down to just being a good neighbour.
“You just invite them over for dinner and you become their friend and you just help out as you can,” says Henderson.
That’s what groups like Orca are gearing up to do as the surge of refugees arrive.
Click here for more information on how to help groups like ORCA who are looking for volunteers wanting to help arriving families with other needs.