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Yarmouth St. Ambrose group hard at work preparing for Syrian refugee family

Patty Dorrian and Tony Dorrian, members of the St. Ambrose refugee committee, were doing some painting on May 23 at the Yarmouth house that will be the home of a Syrian refugee family. The Dorrians are part of a group of volunteers working on the project.
Patty Dorrian and Tony Dorrian, members of the St. Ambrose refugee committee, were doing some painting on May 23 at the Yarmouth house that will be the home of a Syrian refugee family. The Dorrians are part of a group of volunteers working on the project. - Eric Bourque

Volunteers coming together, community helping, says spokesman for St. Ambrose group

A house in Yarmouth is a busy spot these days as work is being done to get the place ready for a Syrian refugee family of eight who are expected to arrive May 30.

Tony Dorrian, a member of the St. Ambrose refugee committee, acknowledged he and his fellow volunteers don’t have a lot of time to work with, but he said the committee is determined to have the house, which he described as “a bit of an older home,” ready for the family’s scheduled arrival.

“Our plan is for them to be in here Wednesday (May 30),” he said on May 23. “We’ve got a week and so we’re going to hustle and get it livable for them.”

The family consists of two adults and six children, Dorrian said, adding that the kids range from about a year to 13 years of age. At the time of the interview, he said the family was in a camp in Lebanon.

Dorrian said the local community is helping. Villa Saint-Joseph du Lac, for example, offerred the use of its van to pick up the family in Halifax. Some members of the St. Ambrose committee intend to make the trip to the city to meet the family, he said.

The plan is to pick up a couple of Arabic-speaking Syrian students in Shelburne, who will serve as interpreters on the ride back, he said.

The biggest challenge was finding a place for the family to live. Referring to the house they got – and noting a couple of ways people are helping out – Dorrian said, “We have a parishioner who’s doing the plumbing and someone has volunteered to check the furnace for us.”

For some time, the St. Ambrose committee had been trying to bring a couple of other Syrian refugee families to Yarmouth. These were two brothers – each with a wife and two children – and they initially had been expected to arrive around the end of 2015. The committee has since learned that one of those families won’t be coming after all. Dorrian says they still hope the other one will make it.

In the meantime, through another program, the St. Ambrose committee had a chance to bring a different family to Yarmouth. This is the blended program, Dorrian said, where the finances of the sponsorship are shared 50/50 between the federal government and the group sponsoring the family. In the blended program, the family is travel-ready, with their visa approved in advance, he said. With the private sponsorship program, the sponsors assume full financial commitment.

There was some discussion among committee members about whether bringing a family this big was perhaps too daunting, “but I think everyone just felt, you know what, let’s just make this happen and do it,” Dorrian said.

 “We have a checklist (including) helping them get set up and everything, getting the kids enrolled at school,” he said. “We’re going to get them in the YReach program (to assist immigrants) and help them get their language up to where it needs to be ... Then it’s really about us helping them get on their feet and so eventually they’ll be able to sustain themselves. That’s the plan.”

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