Manitoba

Syrian refugees to increase Altona's population by 1%

The Altona-based charity Build a Village is sponsoring five Syrian refugee families, that will add 45 people, 10 parents and 35 children, to the community 100 km south of Winnipeg. That represents a 1 per cent increase in population, according to the last census.
A Syrian man kisses his daughter shortly after disembarking from a dinghy at a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. Canada pledged to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees before 2016. (AP Photo/Santi Palacios) (The Associated Press)

Five Syrian refugee families, 10 parents and 35 children, are coming to Altona, Man. An increase of 45 people to the the community100 km south of Winnipeg.  The refugees will grow the population of Altona by about 1 per cent.

"Somehow we will welcome them to Altona no matter how much notice we have," said Build a Village chair Ray Loewen. The Altona-based charity is sponsoring the families.

The biggest challenge facing Build a Village, said Loewen, is finding homes to house all-five families who have children. Most of the families are on the large-size. The largest Syrian family has 11 children.

"We've had some discussions with developers [and] with real estate agents because there are always homes on the market that would be suitable for families like this," he said.

Based on past experience, Build a Village is planning to get little notice before the refugees arrive.

"It is a little nerve-wracking," he said. The families could arrive anytime between now and March, most of the time, Loewen said they are given 10-14 days notice before arrival.

"It does mean trying to prepare as much as we can in advance and it also means trusting in God that He's going to provide what we need for the families," said Loewen.

The group knows very little about the family composition other than gender and ages. They don't know, for example, whether there will be any English speakers in the group or how much education the children will have.

Build a Village are hoping volunteers from the community will step forward to help Syrians settle once they land in Canada.

"We're basically looking for people who are willing to walk alongside a family and be friends with the family," he said.

"That could mean volunteering to stop in for coffee once-a-month, that could mean volunteering to look after their transportation needs..., or that could mean somebody agreeing to take them under their wing when it comes to all of the financial or banking requirements."

Loewen added the charity is also looking for cash donations as well as furniture, winter outerwear and clothing for the refugees.

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