Feature

Welcoming Syrian Refugees

Shannon Gamble

Four years of war in Syria have driven millions of people out of the country, seeking refuge anywhere possible. Families with young children walk for days or weeks to reach neighboring borders, only to be turned away or placed in camps. Thousands pay smugglers for transport on un-seaworthy boats, willing to risk unpredictable seas for their freedom. Once the devastating photos of the young Alan Kurdi were brought to the media’s attention, Western countries took notice and their response was quick.

Like many, when we first heard about the Syrian refugee crisis, my fellow teacher Sierra Gamble Beaton and I knew that we wanted to help. Ottawa’s intake of Syrian refugees is projected at over 1,500 people with an estimated 50 percent being children. As teachers we were anxious to help Syrian children transition into our city.

This current refugee crisis presented a need for action and we felt that it was our turn to answer the call at the school and community level.

Sierra and I decided that organizing a toy drive at each of our schools would allow community members to contribute to families in a tangible way. We brought the idea to Refugee 613, the Ottawa organization that is coordinating the city and community response to this crisis. They welcomed our initiative and gave us the go-ahead with the toy drives. Our next step was to bring the staff at Westwind Public School (Stittsville) and Sir Winston Public School (Nepean) on board. For a 3-month period, we collected new and used toys to give to incoming refugee children from Syria. Our parent communities were keen to support refugees but hadn’t been sure how. This project provided them with the opportunity to help. The students were directly involved. They sorted and selected toys. It was a thought-provoking learning experience.

This current refugee crisis presented a need for action and we felt that it was our turn to answer the call at the school and community level.

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