Community effort for refugees builds in New Ross

by Jonathan Waddell

It may take a village to raise a child but a group in New Ross wants to prove that a community can welcome a family.

The plan of the New Ross Refugee Welcome Group is to welcome a refugee family of about six, to New Ross some time in the new year.

"When we came down to what we could offer and a whole community that was going to be behind them, we sort of said 'you know what, this is sort of a no-brainer ... realistically we can make this happen.'" said Sheena Isenor, the group's energetic organizer.

It has not been easy to get the ball rolling in the community, though not because of reluctance, but Christmas. The annual Christmas trees harvest has preoccupied many, making scheduling meetings difficult and delaying the readying a new home, said Isenor. She started making calls to find out what efforts, if any, were being organized in New Ross in August.

But big questions have been answered and needs fulfilled. The Baptist church parsonage has been offered rent-free and accepted as accommodations for the family for the first year. The three-bedroom home, which has a room that could be converted into a fourth, is large enough to accommodate a six-member family. It was one of two homes offered rent-free. A third, a fully furnished house, was offered for a reduced rent, said Isenor.

Already in place are a number of pieces of furniture and appliances, like the washer and dryer, that takes some pressure off the start-up costs, likely around $8,000, the group estimates.

Without any advertising yet, the group has around $3,700 in cash and pledges. But Isenor is quick to point out that there are a number of people she knows who prepared to make donations. The group is in the process of opening a bank account.

And individual fundraising efforts are already under way. One local church has committed the proceeds from an annual fruitcake sale to the effort. Local artist Sylvia Dodge has donated two of her painting to be raffled off.

There was a confidence evident among those who attended the committee's monthly meeting on December 10 that "New Rossers" will get it done. And their confidence is attracting others to the cause.

Paula Janes drove to New Ross from Windsor with her mother for the meeting. She was determined to be part of an organization aimed at bringing a refugee family to Canada. Scouring the internet for a group close to her home and finding none, she found the next closest one and has offered to provide her experience in fundraising, along with that of her mother, to the New Ross group.

"New Ross is like a little hub. It's a tiny area but it's like a little hub ... I wanted to come here because things are happening here," said Janes.

"It's one thing just saying 'Yeah, I believe Canada should bring 25,000, refugees over,' but that just talk," she added. "I see a lot of these negative comments on Facebook. The best way I thought, you know, that I could counter them is do something positive in the opposite direction."

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