A small-town photographer uses his art to support Syrian refugees

Jay Siemens is a 23-year-old photographer from Altona, Man., which will soon be home to dozens of Syrian refugees.

Born and raised in Altona, Man., Jay Siemens looks at life through the lens of his camera. 

The young photographer was on a recent expedition to Iceland when he heard the news: five Syrian families were set to start their new lives in his hometown. With the refugees on their way, Siemens says he knew he had to help out. 

"I got home from that trip on, I think, the 22nd of November, and on the 23rd I went to Friesens Printing - a local printing company," said Siemens. 

The company commited to printing 1,000 calendars of his photos and donating 100 per cent of the profits to Build a Village, the local church group sponsoring the families.

The calendars — featuring landscapes shot by Siemens —  sold out almost immediately, raising over $20,000. And with the first of the families arriving, he says he's hopeful Altona's newest citizens will feel at home in the rural Manitoba town. 

'Some people are against it, some people are scared of these new people coming in to our country and our town. I think we live in a time when a lot of people are afraid – and it's not good to live in fear." - Jay Siemens