Calgary family helps refugees while on European vacation
Chance encounter with thousands of fleeing refugees was a chance to help
It wasn't on their vacation to-do list, but Erin MacLean-Berko's family decided to help out after coming across thousands of refugees fleeing Syria and Afghanistan while travelling through Europe this summer.
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MacLean-Berko, a music instructor at Mount Royal University Conservatory, said it was a chance encounter.
"It was completely by accident," she told CBC's Alberta@Noon on Tuesday about the family's European vacation that led them to Vienna, Austria, in early September.
"We had been in a media bubble for a little while. The main refugee camp was at the main train station so we sort of stumbled upon it by accident."
The family had stumbled across thousands of refugees escaping war zones and decided to help.
"In the beginning it was extremely chaotic and disorganized because I don't think anyone anticipated this type of movement, (but) there was sense of support. There were signs everywhere saying 'Refugees Welcome,'" MacLean-Berko said.
She said her family was drawn to helping the children.
"These poor men and women were trying to provide a sense of normalcy for their children, playing on the floor with them. No toys."
So the family headed to a nearby toy store. Next it was winter clothing for refugees with long, cold winter nights ahead of them.
Returning to Calgary with this experience, MacLean-Berko said she was disappointed at the reaction by some people to helping refugees.
"History will judge us and I think we have a human obligation. Are there risks? Yes (but) there are risks venturing into certain neighbourhoods in Calgary," she said.
MacLean-Berko says she plans to stay in touch with contacts she made from the experience and do what she can to help.
She's urging other Calgarians to learn more and act.
"To be intimidated by people that need our help is just foolish."