Western University student to take on Lake Ontario in fundraising effort for Syrian refugees

Victor Lal, Founder of Canadians for Syria, is training to swim across Lake Ontario from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto . Max Horne

A Western University student is diving into Lake Ontario this summer for a 52-kilometre swim in support of Syrian refugees.

READ MORE: Left in Lebanon: Syrian family trying to reunite with refugee brother

21-year-old Victor Lal is training to weather the cool waves in a bid to raise $60,000 to sponsor the resettlement of two Syrian families in Canada.

“It’s been a year swimming with a coach, swimming in different lakes, doing cold water training where it’s just me in a very cold bath,” he laughs.

“Physically, I’m challenging myself; mentally, I’m challenging myself, and ultimately it’s all for a great cause.”

It’s not Lal’s first athletic pursuit through his charity Canadians for Syria.

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In 2017, he completed a 2,600 km bike ride from Toronto to St. John’s and raised $30,000 along the way to assist a family of five that are expected to arrive in Ontario in July.

Lal’s parents came to Canada as refugees. He says they are proud of the work he’s doing.

Part of that work, he says, is providing a reminder that Syria is still in conflict and that families are being displaced.

READ MORE: Syrian army closes in on Palestinian refugee camp held by ISIS militants

It’s also about education, he says, and fighting against what he calls “negative political rhetoric.”

“I know that a lot of people who speak about refugees being a potential danger or a burden on the Canadian economy, I know that a lot of their arguments are based off of fear and not fact,” he said.

“There is no evidence that refugees are a burden on the economy. In fact, they’re the opposite — they’re a boost.”

Canadians for Syria has hit $14,000 of the $60,000 goal so far.

Lal’s Lake Ontario swim from Niagara-on-the Lake to Marilyn Bell park in Toronto will take place August 25.

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