PEI

Refugee-sponsorship group reaches halfway point in bringing family to P.E.I.

A dinner this weekend in New Glasgow is one of many that organizers from The Kensington Area Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (KARSI) say is not just raising money — it's raising awareness.

$30,000 raised since launching the campaign in May

Issack Aden lived in the Dadaab refugee camp for 20 years. (Brian Higgins)

A community group in Kensington, P.E.I., is halfway to its $60,000 fundraising goal to bring a family from a refugee camp in Kenya to the Island.

A dinner this weekend in New Glasgow is one of many that organizers from The Kensington Area Refugee Sponsorship Initiative (KARSI) say is not just raising money — it's raising awareness.

The keynote speaker is Issack Aden, he grew up in the camp. Nine members of his family are still there. 

"I had the opportunity to travel to other parts of the Island to give a talk about how the life of a refugee is like — daily life activities, how they get their water, their food, how they spend their day and how they get their source of income," Aden said.

KARSI organizer Judy Loo says she's been blown away by the generosity of Islanders while fundraising. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

He's given the talk many times, in churches and community halls around P.E.I.

"A lot of Islanders are shocked to hear … people can live that life, how difficult it is," he said. "At the end of every talk, they come to me and ask me a lot of questions … there's a lot of interest."

KARSI has raised $30,000 since launching the campaign in May.

"I don't have enough words to express the support and the generosity I received from the Islanders when they hear my story and the story of my sister," Aden said. 

Many families like Aden's

The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, where Aden's family now lives, is among the largest in the world, housing hundreds of thousands of refugees. 

The camp was set up by the UN almost thirty years ago. 

Aden's story is not unique. He said about 15 Somali families currently live on P.E.I. and virtually all of them have family members living in refugee camps.

KARSI continues to wait for approval from the Canadian government to bring Aden's family to P.E.I. In the meantime, organizer Judy Loo said the effort to help Aden's family is deeply satisfying. 

Issack Aden, Judy Loo and chef Emily Wells get ready for the dinner on Saturday night. (Brian Higgins/CBC )

"It's one family at a time … KARSI is a relatively small community organization, and this is the second family that we are working on bringing to the Island, and other groups can do the same," she said.

"There's lots of opportunity to, you know, reach out to help these families and I would like to say it's such a rewarding experience."

The group is confident it will hit its goal, with help from Saturday's dinner at The Mill in New Glasgow.

Aden said Islanders see the need for his family and others, and are responding.

"For the last 10 years, I've been trying … but it wasn't easy, without the help of this wonderful community group," he said.

With files from Brian Higgins

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