Parrsboro group plans to welcome Syrian refugees

L-R, Emilie Coyle, Judith Bauer, Ulrike Rockenbauer

L-R, Emilie Coyle, Judith Bauer, Ulrike Rockenbauer

Parrsboro may be one step closer to welcoming a refugee family from Syria after a meeting today at Main & Station in the old post office.

Emilie Coyle, who works with the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia, met with the group Parrsboro Welcomes Refugees to explain the rules for sponsoring a Syrian family for one year.

Coyle said that the group could bring a family to Parrsboro for as little as $13,850 if it could also provide housing, furniture and clothing. Under a federal refugee sponsorship program, the government would pay living costs for the first six months while the Parrsboro group would be responsible for the next six.

“There’s a huge crisis right now,” Coyle said, “and it’s important, I think, that if we have the means and capacity to welcome people who have been driven out of their homes because of war, that we’re able to give them a safe place to live and to rebuild their lives.”

Coyle and her family have been personally involved with sponsoring refugees for the last five years.

“The first family that we sponsored was an Iraqi/Palestinian refugee family living in Syria,” she said, adding that the father was a professional painter in Iraq and was eventually able to find painting work here before becoming a taxi driver.

“Within five years most people who’ve come as refugees are working and paying taxes,” she said.

During today’s meeting, Coyle acknowledged that people often ask why we’re helping refugees when there are already poor people here who need help.

“It’s not an either/or,” she said, “We want to help everyone.”

Judith Bauer, one of the leaders in Parrsboro Welcomes Refugees, said that so far the group has roughly 10 members and has raised about $3,500, largely through an online appeal.

She said the group is planning an assembly at the Parrsboro schools to help raise awareness about the refugee crisis.

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