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.
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.
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.
“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.