Canadians helping others around the world
by Sandy Lindsay

March 9, 2017


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Fleeing home ...

(L) Guest 'Huda' and MCC Sponsorship Associate Kaylee Perez

Canadians have a reputation for helping others around the world and the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre (BCM&CC) is bringing some of those stories to light with the new Adventure Talk Series.

On Wednesday morning, March 8th, Kaylee Perez, Refugee Sponsorship Associate with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario and advocate for refugees explained the MCC's role in the recent immigration of Syrian refugees.

The MCC is currently in 65 countries and has over 725 on-the-ground partners. 

Kaylee Perez

Born in Canada to a Cuban father and Palestinian-Columbian mother, Perez has first-hand family knowledge of what it is like to be a refugee. 

With a Master's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, her role with MCC includes connecting and matching sponsorship groups to refugee families identified by the Canadian government and the United Nations, engaging communities in public education on welcoming refugees and helping sponsors and newcomer families work together.

"There are some 65.3 million displaced people in the world today," said Perez.  "40.8 million are internally displaced who have had to flee their homes but remain somewhere within their own country and then there are those hold an official U.N. document of which 21.3 million are Palestinian.  Those who cross borders illegally are known as 'asylum seekers' and, once it's determined that they have no durable solution, they are then processed medically and through security to remain in the country.  This is what we are seeing in Manitoba and Quebec right now with refugees crossing the border at night."

The countries that are the major source of refugees today are Syria (5million), Afghanistan (3million), Somalia (1million) and then Sudan, South Sudan, DR Congo, Myanmar, Iraq and Columbia each at less than one million.

In 2015, most Syrian displacements went to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.  "In Lebanon," said Perez, "one in four people is now a refugee.  You have to realize that Lebanon is approximately the size of the space between Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, and has a population of four million, but has taken in more than one million Syrian refugees and does not have infrastructure to support the numbers making it become unsustainable."

According to Perez, the World Food Program has cut support to the  refugee camps by 40 per cent resulting in only $14 per month per person for food.  There is a lack of education and 55 per cent lack housing. 

"Canada is the only country in the world," she added, "that takes those who are the most vulnerable including those with high medical needs, single parents, etc. When they come here, they go to reception centres are fully funded by the government for one year.  Unfortunately, there is only one case worker per 50 families to help them become integrated and connected." 

"During pre-Harper years," Perez said, "Canada took in 34,000 immigrants per year, then during the last five to eight years, that number was cut to 7,500 where it still is today.  When it comes to private sponsorship however, for today's Syrian crisis," added Perez, "the response has been overwhelming."


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Perez also brought with her refugee and now Canadian citizen, 'Huda', who gave a first-hand account of her family's escape from Iraq. Now 20, Huda said that there were times when she felt tired and angry at being called a refugee and thought it a stereotype.  "I saw though the strength and courage of my parents and how proud they are of where they came from.  Few people know that Iraq used to be the envy of the Middle East.  We had the beautiful and unique Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Tigress River and ancient architecture.  Then in 2003, the U.S. started the incessant bombing.  Food was rationed.  We used to go to my grandmother's house after school for tea and then we could never leave our house. I was eight years old.  My father decided, the family had to leave.  We left for Syria, but then it was very different then.  Then we had to move again, this time to Jordan.  There, it was so expensive because we had to pay a permit for each person to live there.  Then, my father at 52 left to find a better place for our family.  He had to leave his family and learn a whole new language. He went to Sweden but was rejected twice.  While he was away, my mother applied to the United Nations for visas.  Finally, after five years, we were accepted to become government sponsored refugees in Canada.  In Iraq, my father was a businessman and now he is going to school to learn English.  My parents will never forget their homeland and there is something that will always pull at them.  It's easier for me and my siblings here in Canada but it's still very complicated for my parents."

"This was a very powerful presentation," said Museum Project Coordinator, Adrienne Mason. "It's only through education and the community working together, that we are able to help others."

The Adventure Talk Series: Canadians helping Others around the World continues on March 22nd when Healy Thompson will be presenting 'Grandmothers to Grandmothers for the Stephen Lewis Foundation'.  The group that began with only a few committed grandmothers coming to the aid of African grandmothers trying to raise their orphaned grandchildren, has evolved into a movement.

Doors open at 9:30 a.m. when everyone is invited for coffee and treats

Sponsored by Hampton Court Comfortable Retirement Living.

Individual Talks:  Members $8 +HST, Public $12 (+HST)
Series:  Members $30 (+HST), Public $45 (+HST)

For more information, call 519-797-2080

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Thursday, March 09, 2017