Nova Scotia

Lifeline Syria-Cape Breton preps for refugee arrivals

Amanda McDougall of Lifeline Syria Cape Breton said more than 250 volunteers are eager to pitch in to help eventually bring 100 families. She expects them to come in groups of ten over the next year.

Islanders offer summer homes, spare rooms and medical help to the 100 families fleeing to Nova Scotia

A Syrian man and his child wait in a refugee camp in Jordan in October. Some of the families who fled the war will start a new life in Nova Scotia. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

Cape Bretoners have offered homes, rooms and medical help for the Syrian refugees on their way to the island. 

Amanda McDougall of Lifeline Syria-Cape Breton said more than 250 volunteers are eager to help bring 100 families. She expects them to come in groups of 10 over the next year. 

"People will call and say, 'I have this summer home. I never use it. It's winterized. Please, take it for the year.' People who have tourism-based businesses are offering rooms or cottages, that type of thing. Many people are saying, 'I have a house. There's only myself and my husband. Please, let me welcome in a family.'"

McDougall said the organization must have "money in the bank" to proceed with helping the families. 

"Lifeline Syria Cape Breton is going to be launching a fundraising initiative in the coming weeks to ensure that we have enough money for those families coming. After that, we have teachers ready, we have doctors that are offering their time. Everything is going to be in place."

They're also planning a drive for furniture and other household items as soon as the refugee families assigned to sponsors in Cape Breton begin arriving.​

Volunteer pods to help refugees settle

Lifeline is organizing volunteer groups to focus on each family. 

"It could be a group of maybe five to 10 people, or families, that are going to be responsible for one particular refugee family when they're here over a 12-month period of sponsorship," she said.

"When the family arrives, that pod will be there to provide transportation, link them up with the proper doctors, appointments, that type of thing, teach them about Cape Breton life." 

The federal government now says it will bring 10,000 refugees to Canada by the end of the year and a further 15,000 by the end of February. Nova Scotia will welcome between 20 and 30 of those families in the first phase.

The Cape Breton group still doesn't know how many refugees to expect or when.

"It's hard when you're trying to engage and inspire people to be prepared and get all the groundwork set," said McDougall. "All we can say it that we are ready."

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