Pre­par­ing for refugees

Syr­ian im­mi­grant help­ing bring sev­eral fam­ily mem­bers to P.E.I.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - BY MITCH MACDON­ALD

Hus­sam Alkhouri could feel the ten­sion ris­ing in his home coun­try of Syria more than five years ago.

See­ing no end to the vi­o­lent political con­flict, the elec­tri­cian left the coun­try with his fam­ily in 2011 to en­ter Canada as an im­mi­grant.

Alkhouri, his wife and three young sons who now call P.E.I. home, are in the process of help­ing oth­ers leave the war-torn area.

“I want to thank Canada, P.E.I. and all the peo­ple who helped us be­cause there are a lot of refugees com­ing and ev­ery­one needs help,” Alkhouri said dur­ing an in­ter­view Satur­day. “Lots of peo­ple are com­ing from Syria and they don’t have any money or food. They don’t have any­thing,”

Alkhouri is pre­par­ing for sev­eral of his fam­ily mem­bers who will be ar­riv­ing in P.E.I. as refugees dur­ing the next week — his father and brother, broth­erin-law, a sin­gle cousin and an­other cousin who has a wife and three chil­dren.

The fam­ily mem­bers have been liv­ing in Le­banon for the past two years. The thought of see­ing them again is al­most too much for Alkhouri.

“I might cry,” he said. “My coun­try is very dan­ger­ous, we’ve lost a lot.”

Alkhouri, who is pri­vately spon­sor­ing his fam­ily mem­bers as refugees, was get­ting some much-needed items from the do­na­tion cen­tre in Char­lot­te­town aimed at help­ing those ar­riv­ing in Canada.

The cen­tre, which is part of the Wel­come Pro­ject of the P.E.I. As­so­ci­a­tion for New­com­ers, of­fers a num­ber of house­hold goods for refugees look­ing to start a new life in Canada.

Co-or­di­na­tor Han­nah Jones said the cen­tre has seen many do­na­tions and was pre­vi­ously filled be­fore Christ­mas.

How­ever, much of that stock has been de­pleted, es­pe­cially fur­ni­ture.

“We’ve moved a fair num­ber of fam­i­lies into their per­ma­nent hous­ing,” she said. “That’s why we’re re-open­ing now be­cause there’s ad­di­tional need for more fur­ni­ture to help peo­ple get set­tled into their new homes.”

Be­fore the week­end, 89 Syr­ian refugees have ar­rived on P.E.I.

“And there’s still more com­ing,” said Jones. “We only get no­tice a few days be­fore they ar­rive.”

Jones said the cen­tre, lo­cated at 1 Queen Street across from the Delta Prince Ed­ward in the for­mer Cana­dian Coast Guard build­ing, will con­tinue to open on Satur­days from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. un­til fur­ther no­tice.

Jones said those look­ing for a list of needed items or any­one who wants to make a mon­e­tary do­na­tion, can visit www.peianc.com.

MITCH MACDON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

Hus­sam Alkhouri and his two old­est sons, Suhil, cen­tre, and Raja, load fur­ni­ture and other house­hold goods from a wel­come cen­tre for Syr­ian refugees into an SUV on Satur­day. While Alkhouri and his fam­ily came to P.E.I. as im­mi­grants, he’s now fur­nish­ing an apart­ment that will be used by fam­ily mem­bers ar­riv­ing as refugees later this week.

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