Cole Harbour community group trying to bring Syrian youth to Canada

·2 min read

A community group in Cole Harbour, N.S., is trying to help three Syrian youth immigrate to Canada as refugees — a quest that's made even more challenging by COVID-19.

Cole Harbour Cares has helped two Syrian families immigrate over the past five years. Now, they've partnered with Khaled Mojarkish, who immigrated to Canada from Syria 13 years ago, to sponsor some of his family members.

Mojarkish, who owns a Lebanese restaurant called Station1, said there are many more family members he'd like to bring to Canada, but he's focusing on two adult nephews and a niece who has children of her own because he thinks it's important for them to have a safe future.

"We think that after we watch the media or the news that everything's settled down now [in Syria] and there is no more war ... but it's not the real story," said Mojarkish.

More than 400,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war, which started after peaceful protests in 2011 were met with a brutal government crackdown.

Mojarkish said his nephews and niece are living in Lebanon right now, and they're struggling to find security and stability.

Diana Goodz, of Cole Harbour Cares, said the group has already raised about $20,000 to help with Mojarkish's mission of reuniting with his family members. But they'll need at least another $30,000 to see it through to completion.

When they started about a year ago, Goodz said they had plans for in-person fundraising events, but those plans were soon derailed.

"The pandemic wasn't on when we first started, but it slammed in pretty soon after we got started," said Goodz.

So they've had to get creative. Their latest fundraiser is a raffle that costs $15 to join, plus the contribution of a $20 gift-card to a local business. A few winners will split the gift cards between them.

Goodz said it seemed like a good way to help the immigration fundraising without asking anyone to put themselves at risk of COVID-19 exposure, while also helping local businesses that have suffered through the pandemic.