Thursday, 08 June 2017 09:17

City of Swift Current proclamation to raise awareness about refugees

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Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault (centre) stands with the delegation that attended a regular council meeting on June 5 for the proclamation of Refugee Awareness Week in the city. Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault (centre) stands with the delegation that attended a regular council meeting on June 5 for the proclamation of Refugee Awareness Week in the city. Matthew Liebenberg

The City of Swift Current proclaimed the week of June 11 to 17 as Refugee Awareness Week and local organizations are hoping it will help to make residents more aware of the plight of refugees as well as the presence of refugees in the city.

Swift Current Mayor Denis Perrault signed the official proclamation during a regular council meeting, June 5.
Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre Executive Director Icasiana de Gala and Pastor Joell Haugan of the Community Baptist Church, who is the chair of the Swift Current and Area Ministerial Association (SCAMA) Refugee Committee, addressed the meeting.
They were accompanied by local resident Sammy Khalife, who has been volunteering as a translator with the SCMA Refugee Committee, and members of the Alrahhal family, who are refugees from Syria.
“Having the Refugee Awareness week last year was a great opportunity for the community to become more aware of the plight of our refugees, or even our newcomers,” De Gala told the meeting. “We see the need to do this again because of what is happening in the world, with so much negativity and unpleasant news about refugees.”
There are currently two refugee families from Syria in Swift Current. She noted refugees from other parts of the world are now calling Swift Current their new home.
“We also have other newcomers from Guinea who came as refugees, and have recently just reunited with their families here,” she said. “We have refugee families from Eritrea, who spent so many years in Israel before coming here. There are some more refugee claimants from various countries who escaped their situation in their countries and sought haven in Canada. Somehow, they ended in Swift Current.”
Pastor Haugan referred to the co-operation between churches in the community to provide support to the two Syrian refugee families and there has been positive support from members of the community.
“Churches have been working together and folks from outside of churches have been participating with us, and we hope to continue to bring in refugee families in the years ahead as funds permit,” he said. “We have many people who have volunteered their time and efforts, and of course their funds, and we're continuing to look for that kind of support in the years ahead.”
Khalife told the meeting, he moved to Swift Current a year ago. He was born in Lebanon and many years ago he came to Canada as a refugee. He completed two university degrees and now works as a nurse at the Cypress Regional Hospital. He wanted to get involved in the community and then started to provided support to the refugee family as a translator.
“Through this experience, I learned a lot about Swift Current,” he said. “I'm proud to be a citizen of Swift Current and everyone has been welcoming in their own way. ... I'm very happy to be a part of this and to get to know Swift Current in such a short period.”
Council members expressed words of welcome to the members of the refugee family and they also thanked the organizations and community members who are providing support to refugees.
“I think it’s great the we can accept and be welcoming to refugees in our community,” Councillor Bruce Deg said. “It makes me feel very well and we really want to be an opening and welcoming community.”
The first refugee family from Syria arrived in Swift Current in February 2016. The Etmeh family has been sponsored by the First United Church under the federal government’s resettlement program for Syrian refugees. The Alrahhal family, who has been sponsored through the  SCAMA Refugee Committee, arrived in July 2016.
The Etmeh family was welcomed to the city during an event last summer at Market Square. A similar event to welcome the Alrahhal family will take place on Market Square at noon on June 24.
A fundraising concert in support of the SCAMA Refugee Committee will take place at the Swift Current Comprehensive High School June 10 at 7 p.m.
The concert will feature Canadian fiddle champion Scott Woods and his band. This old-time fiddle variety show will include twin fiddle performances by Scott and his sister Kendra, while Scott will be doing some trick fiddling. The concert will also feature guitar virtuoso Steve Piticco and champion step dancer Patrick Linton. Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets are available from Pharmasave or from the Community Baptist Church.

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Matthew Liebenberg


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