Refugee resettlement thrives in Antigonish
Syrian-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE) has set a new fundraising goal of $60 000 to be raised by September 31st. The new initiative will be driven by their "100 for 100" campaign, which encourages members of the StFX and Antigonish community to donate $100 to SAFE, while challenging their friends to do the same. SAFE hopes that the fresh injection of cash will enable them to resettle two more Syrian families in Antigonish. In an email to SAFE volunteers, founding member Lucille Harper issued a rallying cry to members of the community:
"With the support of people in our community and our province, we have helped 5 families start new lives in Antigonish. We can do more. The war in Syria is entering its 8th year with over 465 000 Syrians killed in the conflict, over a million injured, and over 12 million - half the country’s pre-war population - displaced from their homes. Please help us bring 2 more families to safety."
SAFE was founded by a small group of community members in May 2015, in direct response to the ongoing conflict plaguing Syria. Their mission was simple: gather funds and community support with the hopes of eventually resettling a Syrian refugee family in Antigonish. The group set an initial fundraising target of $30 000, and began raising funds by setting up jars in local stores, and organizing town halls & community events. Word of mouth and coverage in the local paper then prompted members of the StFX community to join the movement. At a special meeting in November 2015, StFX faculty members, representatives of the StFX Students’ Union, three Employee Unions, the Association of University Teachers, and Senior administration voted on a motion to create StFX for SAFE. The goal of this newly founded fundraising body was to raise $10 000 in sponsorship money for SAFE to aid in their resettlement efforts.
Throughout the following year, StFX for SAFE and the associated student society organized various fundraising events such as the Peace for Syria Walk, two Pause for the Cause campaigns, Hair Today/Gone Tomorrow, and the special presentation of a play co-authored by StFX alumnus Brendan Ahern and Majd Al Zhouri, a 22 year old StFX student from Syria. Within 18 months, StFX for SAFE raised tenfold their initial goal, collecting a total of $100 000 in donations.
Word of SAFE and StFX for SAFE's efforts spread throughout the community, prompting Class of 2018 co-presidents Alex Corrigan and Rachel LeBlanc to establish a bursary aimed at providing financial support for individuals who have claimed refugee status at some in their life. Fundraising for the bursary is ongoing, however, the Class of 2018 was able to raise nearly $40 000 over the course of the past academic year.
“At StFX, graduating classes have a rich history of giving back to the community and by the spring of 2017, it became apparent that the Class of 2018 also wanted to leave its mark. Rachel LeBlanc and I heard many wonderful ideas, but were most inspired by StFX for SAFE who had in the previous two years, raised more than $100 000 to support refugees in Antigonish. We were floored by their dedication and knew that if the community was so incredibly supportive of their cause, then our class would be too.” says Corrigan.
As of today, there are five SAFE-sponsored families from Syria living in Antigonish, with a sixth having recently relocated from Newfoundland; if the "100 for 100" campaign proves successful, that number could increase to eight.