Mennonite Central Committee swamped with Manitobans wanting to help Syrian refugees

As Manitoba works towards welcoming upwards of 2,000 Syrian refugees in the coming weeks, the Mennonite Central Committee is getting a flood of calls from people who want to know how they can help.
A Syrian refugee cries by one of her children as she arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos. MCC says it is being flooded with calls from Manitobans wanting to know how they can help. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

As Manitoba works towards welcoming upwards of 2,000 Syrian refugees in the coming weeks, the Mennonite Central Committee is getting a flood of calls from people who want to know how they can help. 

Arisnel Mesidor, MCC's migration and resettlement coordinator, believes the increase in calls is a direct response to the Syrian refugee crisis. 

"I haven't seen this kind of response since the early 80s with the boat people. I am getting calls from businesses, families who are forming groups, churches and even churches of different denominations who are banding together for the first time, all to help Syrian refugees. I have sponsors waiting, we are waiting for the refugees," he said.

Mesidor says it is usually the other way around: too many refugees and not enough sponsors. 

So far, Mesidor says, MCC Manitoba has submitted 44 applications to the federal government to sponsor a total of 140 people. 

"And I have no less than 12 to 15 churches right now working on sponsorship. More than five churches are standing by, waiting for me to match them with a refugee family. Calls keep coming in. They say, 'Can you call me back? I have put a group of people together and we need to know what the next step is,'"said Mesidor.

Mesidor says he is also getting calls from people who aren't part of a church group or business and want to know what they can do. 

"They can start up a group with friends, we can connect them with a group, or if that isn't something they are interested in, they can make a monetary donation. That will go towards resettlement. And if they are not in a position to make a donation, I will recruit them as a volunteer," said Mesidor.

He says volunteers are needed to help translate, visit newcomers, take donated clothing to them or just be there as a contact person.

Thrilled with response

Mesidor wants to thank Manitobans for what he calls their amazing generosity. He experienced it first hand when he came here from Haiti 11 years ago. 

"Canadians are great. They are very generous. I want to thank all Manitobans for their strong response to the refugee crisis. Let's keep the momentum going and not let the challenges intimidate us. Where there is a will there is a way," he said. 

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