Refugee rescue plan unfolding

More than 70 people showed up for meeting to discuss possibility bringing a family from Syria to the community

It was a typical Armstrong response.

A public meeting was called for Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of residents and organizations banding together to bring a family from Syria to the community.

More than 70 people showed up for the two-hour meeting at the Pleasant Valley Secondary School auditorium.

“Our goal is to have a community-based project,” said organizer Ron Brinnen, a retired PVSS teacher, on Wednesday. “Last night reflected that.

“If we’d had a go button to hit, the room would have exploded into action. You could feel the energy. It was really wonderful.”

Brinnen got the idea of bringing a family to the community after seeing the image of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy, and after talking to a three-year-old boy while parking cars as a volunteer at the Interior Provincial Exhibition.

Brinnen and Mayor Chris Pieper chaired the meeting with Bishop James Cowan of the Anglican Church and Rev. Bari Castle of the United Church giving some background on the refugee situation.

It is hoped, said Brinnen, that the United Church will become the sponsorship agreement holder, though there is a process the church would have to go through.

Following the meeting, people were asked, if interested in forming a steering committee, to leave their names and any resources and/or skills they offer. Like the attendance at the meeting, Brinnen was thrilled with the response.

“A significant number came forward, off the top of my head I’d say at least 20,” said Brinnen. “We had them explaining where their interests lay, what their experiences were and how they could help the process.”

Even though no financial account for the effort has been established, one resident wrote a cheque for $500 as a contribution and walked out the door.

A GoFundMe.com account (Armstrong Spallumcheen Refugee Fund) has been opened with a goal of raising $35,000, which is the number required to ask Immigration Canada for a family to come to Armstrong.

Retired teachers and teaching assistants have offered their time, if a family arrives in town, to organize English tutorials and teaching lessons for the family.

Brinnen and Pieper will sit down in the next week and look at forming the steering committee.

“We’re still feeling our way through this,” said Brinnen, who said there won’t be another public meeting on the topic “at this point.”

“There were a lot of wonderful people at the meeting, all there to help in their own unique ways,” said Brinnen.