Nova Scotia·Special Report

Small town, big heart: How the crisis in Syria has changed Antigonish

The Syrian refugee crisis has become personal for many people in Antigonish.

Community raises $173,500 to help at least five families

The Hadhad family is greeted by a welcoming party from Antigonish at Halifax Stanfield International Airport. New Syrian families have brought the town together. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The Syrian refugee crisis has become personal for many people in Antigonish, N.S.

In fact, people are feeling so inspired, a few of the organizations they've set up to help refugees are grappling with the unique problem of having too many volunteers.

What motivates them is their own history. Several of those leading the charge are success stories of their own, showing what refugee families can do.

There's the daughter of Vietnamese boat people who collected and sorted through bags and bags of donated goods. A professor who fled Lebanon 40 years ago when the first Trudeau was prime minister, and learned to call Canada home. One woman was inspired to pay it forward by her father's struggles as a child in Holland during the Second World War as the Canadians arrived to help his starving family.

It's these deeply personal moments that have pushed Antigonish to raise a whopping amount of money for a small town — $173,500 and counting.

That's enough to bring five refugee families to the community, with hopes of even more.

The Hadhad family, moments after landing in Halifax in January. They were the first Syrian family to move to Antigonish. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The CBC's Carolyn Ray and Steve Berry went to Antigonish to see first hand how the community is changing, in a series we're calling Small Town, Big Heart. 

How they did it

Why it's personal

The lives they've already changed


Carolyn Ray


Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at


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