It was a cold and wet West Coast winter day yesterday, but it wasn’t enough to dampen the smiling faces and warmth displayed by Peace Arch Elementary students as Joe Woodworth and I picked up the latest batch of backpacks for Operation Backpack yesterday!
It was amazing to see how much the students from each class in the school, had managed to get inside these backpacks. They were incredibly heavy!!
Initiated by Nicole Hurtubise, a teacher at the school, each class had collected items for these backpacks with care and attention to what refugee children from Syria or elsewhere, would need and like.
Taking part in this initiative was an extension of the other ways the school community gives back and helps those less fortunate, in learning to be socially responsible for themselves and those around them.
As we brought the backpacks out to the van,I spoke with a couple of the students and told them how much this would mean to the children and youth receiving them. “It was so much fun and we did it so fast!” one girl said. “We liked doing it, it was for a good cause. We want these kids to know we welcome them.”
And that’s what it’s really all about. Coming to Canada as a refugee is anything but easy and the Syrian refugee crisis has really shone a light on how under-funded our social network is in Canada. Many agencies are regularly stretched for funds and in our community of Surrey, it often shows.
These backpacks, like the others already collected and delivered, will be distributed through Options – a front line agency that is and will continue to assist Syrian and other refugees coming into Surrey.
I can’t speak enough to the amazing work this agency does across the board. I toured their Newton offices before Christmas,meeting staff and a client – this is not just a place of help,hope and healing, it is a labour of love for all who work there.
They deal with refugee settlement, yes, but they also deal with every single social issue you will encounter in Surrey – mental health challenges, counselling, homelessness, domestic violence, youth care… the list seems to be endless and the demand only grows greater with every passing day. Here is a link to who they are and what they do: http://www.options.bc.ca/publications-resources/ocs-magazine
I’m a huge believer in the theory of Give where you Live -whether it is through volunteering or donations of money/time or goods and services,it has the most impact right in our own city. And Options is always in need of more funding and volunteers to keep programs operating and expand as the need increases.
The need for household goods for incoming refugees has not abated, but there is still a huge issue for many agencies of finding space, and the amount of time it takes to find housing for the incoming families -many of which are very large. Please, before dropping off donations anywhere, call ahead to ensure they can be taken.
The most desperate need is still housing – basement suites, rooms, apartments etc. You can call the Immigrant Services Society to register if you have housing you can help with. http://www.issbc.org/
We are now coordinating the delivery of 100 filled backpacks to Options, generously collected and put together by the students,parents and staff from the independent school at Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy in Richmond, led by Kaniz Bhimani. They have been working on them since last November when Operation Backpack first started – Kaniz saw that first post and contacted us immediately to find out more details. Within days she reported the school was committed to 100 backpacks,filled and ready to go!
The generosity and compassion shown for this small project, is easily carried throughout the year- it’s been my experience that if people are given an opportunity to give and share what they can, they will. And there are many places that would love to have your help, right in your own communities. 🙂
Thank you to everyone who helped out and donated supplies, backpacks or even clothing and other items which we dropped off as well!
A huge thank you to Cloverdale Rodeo and Westcoast Amusements for the stuffies that kids can cuddle up to – you guys are amazing!
To Lori Dennis and Joe Woodworth at Options for partnering with us and picking up donations – what you do, is astounding!
The staff at Special Olympics BC, who on their own time collected a massive truck load of items.
The wonderful children and staff at Peace Arch Elementary, Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy, and all the other amazing people not only in Surrey, but from all over Metro Vancouver and BC who donated backpacks- yes one was even mailed in to me – please know that because of what you’ve done, a child will know that they were thought of with love and compassion and welcome.