Due to ongoing conflict in their homeland, millions of Syrians are leaving their homes to flee violence and keep their families safe in what’s been called the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.
Countries around the world are opening their arms to aid those affected, with Canada accepting 30,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and May 2016, and the United States promising at admit 10,000 before the end of its fiscal year in September 2016.
We extended a warm welcome to our new neighbours with our Refugees Welcome campaign in February 2016. Through the purchase of our limited edition Hand Of Friendship Soap, our customers raised $300,000 USD for the Friendship Fund. The money has been distributed to more than 35 agencies, all working to support the long-term needs of these victims of violence—about half of whom are children.
Here are just three of the agencies that are benefiting from the Friendship Fund:
Located in Kitchener, Ontario, the goal of Reception House is to help refugees become accepted and welcomed as members of their new community. Their approach is twofold: first they educate the public about the needs and challenges faced by refugees, and about the contribution they make to the community. Second, they support refugees’ integration into all aspects of life in the Waterloo Region through programs like youth groups, health clinics and support in finding permanent housing.
Reception House takes pride in their individualized approach to matching needs with services: “We look beyond the reporting and paperwork. When we respond to individuals and their needs in a pro-social way, we not only better our clients’ lives, we strengthen the future of our communities,” says Reception House Waterloo Region’s Executive Director Carl Cadogan.
SURVIVORS exists to facilitate the long-term healing of torture survivors and their families, to educate professionals and the public about torture and its consequences, and to advocate for the abolition of torture. It’s estimated that 44% of refugees are torture survivors, which means there are about 1.3 million of them living in the US alone. Nicole Kalmus of SURVIVORS says once survivors receive the support they need, they “report an increase in ability to perform everyday activities and a decrease in problematic mental health symptoms.”
Through holistic programs including counselling, education and vocational training, survivors can begin to trust others again and rebuild their lives in new communities. The organization has helped approximately 1,900 torture survivors and their families to date, with referrals increasing at a steady rate. The Friendship Fund donation will support the growing need for SURVIVORS’ holistic, long-term programs.
The IRC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to responding to the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The Friendship Fund donation is supporting the Reyhanli Youth Center in Turkey—a country that hosts an estimated 2.74 million Syrian refugees. Many reside in the small city of Reyhanli, close to the Syrian border. There are few opportunities for Syrian youth here, and most feel understandably anxious about their futures.
The IRC’s Reyhanli Youth Center hosts programs that offer a combination of education and social services to young refugees aged 15-25. Here, they are offered language classes, computer skills workshops and university entrance exam preparation. Along with educational classes, the center hosts recreational activities including drama, cooking and football. This combination of educational and social programming gives youth a sense of normalcy in a turbulent time of their lives.
Every person who has suffered due to this humanitarian crisis deserves the chance to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. You can help make refugees welcome by volunteering in your community, supporting organizations that offer services and education opportunities, and by being a good neighbor. Let’s continue to show refugees that they’re welcome, safe and secure in their new homes.
The Friendship Fund has also proudly supported the following organizations: Syrian Community Network, Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, Welcome to America Project, Pharaon Consulting, Smile Organization, Heart House Dallas, BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre/Islamophobia Hotline, DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, MOSAIC – BC, United Way of the Lower Mainland, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, Action for Healthy Communities Society of Edmonton, Edmonton Immigrant Services Association, Centre for Newcomers, Immigrant Services Calgary, Lethbridge Family Services, Saamis Immigration Services Association, Central Alberta Refugee Effort, MOSAIC - Newcomer Family Resource Network Incorporated, Regina Open Door Society, Saskatoon Open Door Society, Windsor Women Working with Immigrant Women, Ottawa Community Immigrant Services Organization/Refugees613, South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre, Toronto Friends of Refugees, COSTI Immigrant Services, Arab Community Centre of Toronto, Immigrants Working Centre, Agincourt Community Services Association, Action Réfugiés Montréal, Multicultural Association of Fredericton Inc., and The Multicultural Association of Greater Moncton Area.