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Coats of Paint: Fundraising for refugees

Coats of Paint: Fundraising for refugees

Tam Harrington models a coat created by Leif Kristian Freed, one of the garments that will be auctioned off April 14 to raise money to settle a family of Syrian refugees. Nell Burns photo

They’ve been waiting over two years, but volunteers at the Seniors Activity Centre in Sechelt are hopeful that the Syrian refugee family they have sponsored will arrive this spring. And in the meantime, they are organizing a final fundraising event – Coats of Paint – that should bring fundraising efforts up to their $36,000 goal. (They have so far raised $32,000.)

Coats of Paint is a unique blend of art and fashion. Local artists are given fabric which they paint like a canvas and then stitch into a coat that is a unique, wearable piece of art.  Organizers are hoping for at least 15 garments, which will be showcased in a catwalk fashion show on April 14 at the Seniors Centre.

Tickets for the event are $20. Attendees will see the fashion show, then have the opportunity to try on the garments and bid for them (minimum bid $250 per coat). Proceeds go to the artists and to the refugee sponsorship project.

This event sold out when it was previously held in 2016, so organizers are advising anyone who wants to attend to get a ticket now. Tickets are available online at share-there.com, or from the Seniors Centre.

Joanne Rykers of the sponsorship committee said that help from the community will be sought when the Syrian family arrives. “We have a place for them temporarily, but they will need long term accommodation,” said Rykers.

They have been working on the sponsorship project since it was approved by the Seniors Centre in January, 2016. Once the family arrives, the committee will become a settlement committee, helping the family find housing, access services and look for employment. Under immigration rules, their official responsibilities run for one year.

The seniors have been in regular touch with the Syrian family (a doctor and a teacher with three sons) via email and Skype. The family finished the last of their interviews and paperwork last fall and are now expected any time.

According to the Pew Research Centre, nearly 13 million Syrians (about 60 per cent of Syria’s population) has been displaced by seven years of civil war. About 52,000 have resettled in Canada.

In January this year, the Toronto Star reported that there was a backlog of 20,000 sponsored refugees waiting to get to Canada. Canada4Refugees, a grassroots advocacy group for private sponsors, has complained about the delays and “unnecessarily protracted lead-times from application to arrival.”

Two other Syrian families sponsored by local groups were able to take advantage of a program that expedited the immigration process. They arrived in 2016.

Donna McMahon

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