It’s easy to share a photo or video on Facebook about the plight of Syrian refugees, but what good does it do for the refugees themselves? Maggie McDonnell, an English teacher at Vanier, who had been active on Facebook regarding the issue of Syrian refugees decided to take it one step further.
“I got to a point where I realized I can’t keep sharing these photos and saying this is terrible,” she said, “I wanted to do something”. She soon expressed her ideas with some other colleges, and sent an email out to the head of the English department, who later forwarded the email to the rest of the colleges.
“[Teachers] came from every department to say they wanted to be part of it”, and soon a group of seven teachers was formed with the goal in mind to sponsor a refugee family from Syria. Of this group is Mcdonnell, Stephanie Belmer, Maureen Jones (humanities teachers), Maggie Kathwaroon (a women’s and gender studies teacher), Janice Paquette and Mark Prentice (sociology teachers), and retiree Nancy Wargny, who previously taught psychology at Vanier.
“It’s not just a matter of helping them get to Canada, and paying for their flight” she said, “ We were responsible for finding them a place and paying for it”. But not just that. The Committee also plans to help the family by providing them with a car, and one supporter who works in dentistry has offered to do a year’s worth of free dental work for the family. Their main focus as a group is to provide financially for a family of three for their first year in Canada, and their goal is to raise $20,000. Many others, like Vanier teachers, as well as students and friends are also donating. The VCTA and Vanier’s director general Normand Bernier have both donated $2000 to the cause, and approximately $5500 has also been raised through their gofundme page.
McDonnell hopes that the group will continue its work in the future. “Were hoping this group (the Vanier Committee for Refugee Sponsorship) will turn into a permanent committee within the college that will continue to bring in another family, or bring in some student refugees”, she said.
All the forms have been sent in, so for the time being the group is awaiting an answer on when their application will finally be approved by the government. The family, from Damascus, is currently living in Beirut and consists of a mother, a father, and a three- year- old daughter.
Written By: Miriam Lafontaine
Originally Published: February 2016