Syrian refugees have high praise for Winnipeg ahead of Thursday benefit concert

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Syrian refugees have high praise for Winnipeg ahead of Thursday benefit concert

Syrian refugees who have come to Winnipeg say they're grateful for the help of Canadians, while a group that sponsored three families is holding a benefit concert in a final push to pay off the costs of bringing the newcomers to the city.

The benefit concert, taking place on Thursday evening, will feature homemade Syrian and Middle Eastern snacks along with entertainment from local recording artists JD Edwards, Scott Nolan and Katie Murphy.

Money raised from the concert will pay for living expenses from the three sponsored families, who make up a total of 13 refugees.

The South Osborne Syrian Refugee Initiative said it's short $32,000 of a $150,000 goal it has, which also includes the cost of a refugee application and funds to support families before they arrive in Canada.

The refugees also have to pay back travel expenses to the federal government that total about $7,000 per family. The hope is that some of the money raised on Thursday will cover some of those costs.

"We don't want to leave the families with huge debts," said Matthew Lawrence, the co-founder of the initiative.

'See the true Canadian in everyone'

Joseph Chaeban, spokesperson for the three families, who are related to his wife, said he's grateful for all of the help given to family members who had to flee the war-torn country.

"You really see the true Canadian in everyone," Chaeban said, adding that he knows while his family was able to make it to Canada, millions of other refugees haven't.

"This is better than winning the lottery because you actually saved someone's life," he added.

"We're truly proud to be Canadian."

Tarek Al Abdellha ,20, came to Winnipeg last fall from Lebanon where his family was living after fleeing Syria in 2012.

Being in Canada has been great, Al Abdellha said.

"It's my dream."

He said life in Lebanon was hard because his family didn't have a resident card, which they needed to work. 

"I'm so so happy it's because my dream before in Syria we heard in Canada it's so beautiful."

Thursday's concert takes place at the Park Theatre at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for $25 at the door.