Call­ing P.E.I. home

Sev­eral Syr­ian fam­i­lies wel­comed to P.E.I. over past week

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM DAY jday@the­

Sev­eral Syr­ian fam­i­lies wel­comed to prov­ince over past week.

Nearly 40 gov­ern­ment-spon­sored Syr­ian refugees have ar­rived in P.E.I. over the past sev­eral days.

Craig Mackie, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the P.E.I. As­so­ci­a­tion for New­com­ers to Canada, says seven fam­i­lies with 38 peo­ple landed in the prov­ince be­tween Dec. 28 and Jan. 2. Four­teen pri­vately spon­sored Syr­ian refugees have ar­rived since the end of Novem­ber.

More are likely to ar­rive this week.

P.E.I. ex­pected to wel­come 100 Syr­ian refugees be­fore the end of 2015 and an­other 150 through Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, but those tar­gets have been moved back as a re­sult of fed­eral de­lays.

Mackie says the process of set­tling the Syr­i­ans in Prince Ed­ward Is­land has been go­ing smoothly.

They are met at the air­port, given a small al­lowance to buy food, and checked into tem­po­rary ac­com­mo­da­tions.

“We give them time to rest, sleep, get caught up, get on the time zone,’’ says Mackie. A needs as­sess­ment is done. Bank ac­counts are set up and gro­ceries are pur­chased.

The new­com­ers as­so­ci­a­tion is cur­rently work­ing to help get the re­cently ar­rived Syr­ian chil­dren placed in school.

“It’s just giv­ing them Cana­dian life skills train­ing — an­swer­ing their ques­tions,’’ adds Mackie.

He says for the most part the fam­i­lies are rel­a­tively large, mid­dle class and well ed­u­cated.

Mackie is keen to have some of the Syr­ian refugees tell their sto­ries to the me­dia so Is­lan­ders can feel a closer con­nec­tion.

Is­lan­ders have been quite wel­com­ing. More than 300 have signed up to vol­un­teer with the new­com­ers as­so­ci­a­tion.

A cen­tre set up to ac­cept do­na­tions of out­door cloth­ing and fur­ni­ture had to stop tak­ing do­na­tions due to the over­whelm­ing re­sponse.

He says the refugees are grate­ful to es­cape strife in a peace­ful place like Prince Ed­ward Is­land.

“They know it’s safe and they are happy to be in a place that they can now call home,’’ he says.

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