Syrian newcomers fundraising to help refugees arriving in Nova Scotia

Click to play video: 'Former Syrian refugees making the transition easier for newcomers'
Former Syrian refugees making the transition easier for newcomers
WATCH: A group of former Syrian refugees is trying to make that transition easier for others, with a loan program that helps people get back on their feet. Steve Silva reports – Oct 23, 2018

A group created by people who came to Canada as Syrian refugees is fundraising to help others in the same situation.

“We wanted to make something useful for this beautiful city,” Loai Al Rifai, a co-founder of the Nova Scotia Syrian Society, said on Tuesday.

He came to Canada as Syrian refugee about two years ago. Al Rifai said he’s working on becoming a doctor again and wants to help other Syrian newcomers achieve their dreams.

The group created a school last year for children. It’s housed in an apartment building’s common room and a YMCA’s room. The subjects taught include Canadian culture, Arabic culture, and computer skills, he said.

The group is trying to raise $50,000 via a fundraising campaign to expand its services.

READ MORE: Edmonton councillor questions province on disparity in refugee health services

Al Rifai said members of the group want to fund accounts to provide interest-free loans for members dealing with emergencies. They also want to offer microloans for members to start businesses or improve their education.

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One of the goals of the group is to help newcomers better integrate into their communities.

“We like to be very useful and very [beneficial] for the city,” he said. “We don’t like [people looking at] us refugees, meaning that we don’t have anything. We had something in our country. We can rebuild again and again our life here.”

WATCH: Syrian refugee opens food business in north Edmonton

Click to play video: 'Syrian refugee opens food business in north Edmonton'
Syrian refugee opens food business in north Edmonton

Wenche Gausdal, director of programs for settlement, community integration and support services for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, said those who come to Canada as refugees often face challenges such as finding housing, getting a job, and dealing with language barriers.

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“The refugees, when they’re coming, they are not coming always because they want to immigrate to Canada. It is because they are leaving a situation where they can’t stay or they can’t return to, so it depends on what they have experienced through all of that. That takes a while for that whole family to settle in,” she said.

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