Saskatoon school raises money to bring persecuted family to Canada

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WATCH ABOVE: A Saskatoon school has kicked off a fundraising effort to help sponsor a family from a civil-war ravaged area of Africa. Ryan Kessler says, after months of planning, Ecole St. Matthew School is the first in Saskatoon to take the 1000 Schools Challenge – Feb 4, 2016

SASKATOON – Students at École St. Matthew School are planning to raise at least $30,000 to bring a family of six from a conflict-stricken African country to Saskatoon. The elementary students started their fundraising campaign Thursday in hopes of welcoming a French-speaking family from Burundi.

Danielle Schock’s daughter is in kindergarten at St. Matthew. After learning about the 1000 Schools Challenge, the mother brought the idea to the school.

“There was an elementary school [in Toronto] that privately sponsored a Syrian refugee family and challenged other schools across the country to do the same,” Schock said.
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St. Matthew’s sponsorship family fled Burundi after facing persecution for their Christian beliefs. The parents are living in a Rwandan refugee camp with their children, aged 11, nine, six and an infant.

Students wore red and white clothes and carried miniature Canadian flags for the official launch of their fundraising initiative.

“If you were them, would you want somebody to help out for you? Would you want somebody to donate money so you could have a better life?” asked Ethan McCulloch, a Grade 8 student at St. Matthew.

“When we look at our goal as transforming the world, what better tangible way of doing this?” said St. Matthew principal Francois Rivard.

READ MORE: World leaders make record $10B pledge to help displaced Syrians flee civil war

In an effort to show how refugees come from around the world, Rivard suggested the students sponsor a family from outside of Syria.

Since Nov. 4, 2015, more than 16,000 Syrian refugees have landed in a total of 188 Canada communities, according to a federal government website.

Farrukh Syeer, a cultural bridging facilitator with the Saskatoon Open Door Society, made a presentation in the St. Matthew gymnasium, explaining what a refugee is and how sponsors help.

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“Refugees may feel that they are the people who are homeless, maybe, for a lifetime,” Syeer said.

“But if they find a response here in the community that is welcoming and that can succeed in making them feel at home, they may feel that they are home, finally,” he added.

The St. Matthew fundraising campaign is expected to last anywhere from 18 months to two years.

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