03/17/2016 21:44 EDT | Updated 03/18/2017 01:12 EDT

Winnipeg Foundation gives half a million dollars to help Syrian refugees

WINNIPEG — The Winnipeg Foundation, which raises money from the private sector for community projects, has donated half a million dollars to help Syrian refugees adjust to life in Manitoba.

Federal Immigration Minister John McCallum made the announcement Thursday at Welcome Place in Winnipeg.

Of that money, Welcome Place will use $150,000 to provide each refugee family with a package of bedding, dishes and basic needs for a first home.

The remainder will be allocated at a later date.

McCallum says of the 25,000 Syrians who have come to Canada, many still need help with rent, household items and finding work.

He says there are always "little troubles" along the way but notes that 72 per cent of the refugees have already been found permanent housing.

“Having welcomed them here, the second step is to equip them for success in Canada.” McCallum said. “Largely that’s a matter of housing, language training and jobs."

Rita Chahal of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council said the bed-in-a-bag program is a good first step.

"We hope the simplicity of clean sheets and a comforter will reflect the generosity and the love and the warmth of the Canadian people," she said.

The Elahmars, a family of five who have spent the last 10 days crowded into a small room at Welcome Place, are looking forward to moving into their own apartment.

Though their transitional accommodations have been crowded, they have been also been quiet and safe. Family patriarch Zekariye Elahmar said that's much better than their home in Syria, which was in the middle of a war zone.

Through a translator, he explained that a bomb once hit their house, blowing off the leg of his five-year-old son, Ahmed.

The now eight-year-old youngster is a cheerful lad who hops around quickly using a crutch in place of his missing leg.

He proudly shows off to a visitor an award he won at the Malatya International Film Festival in Turkey for acting in a short film made about Syrian refugees.

The family is hoping they can find a permanent home that will be suited to the youngster and his disability.

(CJOB, CTV Winnipeg, The Canadian Press)


The Canadian Press