Ottawa

New online swap shop to outfit Syrian refugees with what they need

Call it an online swap shop for people in need, and for people who need to unload. In this case, the people in need are refugees to the Ottawa area and the swap shop is called Homeful.ca.

Homeful.ca was conceived and created by group of local volunteers

Yani Roumeliotis, left, Jennifer Jeppsson, middle, and Anne Pham-Huy discuss their online swap shop, Homeful.ca. (CBC)

Call it an online swap shop for people in need: some need clothing, appliances and household items and others need to unload those things.

In this case, the people in need are Syrian refugees to the Ottawa area.

The swap shop is called Homeful.ca, and three of the people who helped create the site, volunteers for the settlement group Refugee 613, were complete strangers last autumn.

Then, after dozens of brainstorming meetings — and lots of coffee — Yani Roumeliotis, Jennifer Jeppsson and Anne Pham-Huy became good friends.

They say Homeful is similar to Kijiji or Craigslist, except it's designed to help refugees, settlement workers and private sponsors connect with Ottawa residents looking to donate clothing and other goods.

Refugee 613 volunteer Anne Pham-Huy is proud to have helped Homeful.ca go from idea to reality. (CBC)

Pham-Huy, a pediatrician whose family came to Canada as refugees in 1975, said the implications of this kind of effort are long-lasting.

"I'm hoping that this platform creates a bit of a circle of kindness to connect the community to have that back-and-forth connection," said Pham-Huy.

"It's really gratifying to see, so hopefully people will use it and people benefit from it … The purpose of this site is focused at the time being but it has a [much] broader mission: helping people in need."

I think the more that people connect online and can actually see a specific need, they'll look in their basements and their closets and pull some things out- Volunteer Jennifer Jeppsson

Jeppsson anticipates a lot of growth for the free-to-use website.

"Right now the range is a lot of clothing... I'm hopeful that over time when people get more comfortable with it they'll be comfortable giving larger items and more specialized items," said Jeppsson.

Jennifer Jeppson helped bring Homeful.ca to life. (CBC)

"I think the more that people connect online and can actually see a specific need, they'll look in their basements and their closets and pull some things out," she said.

The direct connection between donor and refugee eliminates the cost and logistics of warehousing donations. As well, the users of the website can select the items they need — rather than being handed donations that might duplicate what they already have or, in the case of clothing, not fit properly.

Anyone can donate to the website — which is in English, French and Arabic — but only refugees or their sponsorship groups can receive donations, once they register with Refugee 613.


 

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