Warehouses benefiting Syrian refugees in Calgary set to close
6-month lease on donated warehouse spaces ends June 30
The idea was a simple one — fill donated warehouse space with household items that new Canadians might need to rebuild their lives and hand them out free of charge.
Over the last six months, hundreds of recently arrived Syrian refugees — and some down-on-their-luck Calgarians — benefited from that generosity.
"The flow of things, whether it was people, donations, ideas, activities, it's endless, just amazing," said Sam Nammoura, one of the volunteer organizers behind the Syrian Refugee Support Group Calgary.
With the lease set to expire June 30 on two donated warehouse spaces used by the group — which were provided by Calgary philanthropist and businessman Brett Wilson — operations are now winding down. But the volunteers will continue their efforts, said Nammoura.
"The physical need is done. We're trying to focus on a new venture, more of a social and integration aspect," he said.
Need in the city is still great among some sectors of the population.
"We met a lot of people, from low income Calgarians or somebody who has gone through a situation, or different groups of people, newcomers from different countries, they definitely need this type of help," said Nammoura.
Receiving support to re-establish in a new country is invaluable, he said.
"As an immigrant myself, when I paid $200 to furnish my first apartment, back in the day. That $200 was probably 40 per cent of my net worth," he said. "So any help at that time, as little as $1, or a spoon, it's appreciated."
What made the effort special, said Nammoura, was the face-to-face interactions it enabled.
"We do have a lot of agencies but there are certain kinds of people who like to deal directly with the people who need the stuff," he said. "So the warehouse was the place to meet, to arrange for the donors and takers, per se, to meet and exchange stuff."
And those who were helped often became volunteers themselves.
"Because the cause is so just and people do believe in this and want to help," said Nammoura.
"They really saw how people received them with compassion and love and they were eager to pay it back at any opportunity. Any time we had a call for volunteers, they rushed. It's a flow of giving back and receiving."
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With files from Terri Trembath