Calgary

Syrian refugees: 7 ways you can help them settle in Calgary

So you want to help a Syrian refugee settle in Calgary, but you're feeling a bit lost on how to get started? Never fear, we've got some tips on how you can help out.

Beyond volunteering and donating money, there are several ways to welcome our newest residents

16 Syrian refugees reunited with their families in Calgary. 1:14

So you want to help a Syrian refugee settle in Calgary? But you have no idea how to get started? Never fear, we've got some tips on how you can help out. 

1. Knit some warm clothes:

For newcomers likely unaccustomed to Calgary winters. A group called 1,300 Stitches for Syria is gathering mitts, toques, scarves and cowls to help keep them warm this winter.

2. Donate clothes, furniture and bedding:

If you want to donate clothes, furniture and bedding, it's recommended you drop them off at service organizations that support all Calgarians:

3. Donate cash:

If you prefer to donate cash rather than goods, you could start by donating to federal government's Syria Emergency Relief Fund or the Alberta government's program to help Syrian refugees. Either way, you're doubling your dollars to help out because the government will match your donation. You can also give directly to any of the recognized Canadian charities and local organizations that support newcomers.​

4. Volunteer.

You could volunteer to help newcomers who don't speak English navigate the frustrating process of learning a language that incorporates such horrors as there, their, they're and so many pronunciation contradictions it could make even the calmest person crack. Or help them fill out government paperwork. You could drive newcomers to appointments, churches or mosques or shopping. You could organize get-to-know-you events to welcome them to the neighbourhood. At least five groups are organizing volunteer efforts:

5. Offer up a place in your home.

One of the biggest challenges is finding housing for Syrian refugees so keep that in mind if you have a suite in your house (or apartment building, if you own one) that isn't currently occupied, Calgary's rental market is better than it has been in the past, but it's still tight. You need tenants, they need a home. Win-win.
Calgary's tight rental market makes it difficult for refugees. (CBC)

6. Consider sponsoring a refugee or family.

If you're curious what's involved, check out the federal government's Sponsoring Syrian Refugees page with heaps of useful information to answer such questions as: What expenses do I need to cover? Do I need to provide clothing and furniture? What about an interpreter? Do I help connect them with doctors, schools, banks, etc.? How long am I responsible for them? What resources are available to help me?

7. Most importantly, welcome them to our city.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said earlier in the week that the best mental health intervention possible for people fleeing violence, war and refugee camps is to make them feel safe and at home.

We're off to a good start.

If you want to find out more information:

he City of Calgary has a page dedicated to Syrian refugees, with links to resources and suggestions on how to help, including donating time and money or sponsoring a refugee or family as well as a list of more organizations that are helping out. There's also a Facebook group, the Syrian Refugees Support Group Calgary, that is coordinating donations and offering helpful information. And the federal government has a lot of useful information on its #WelcomeRefugees page.

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