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Amherst effort to help Syrian refugees gets international exposure

A film crew from Rotary International was in Amherst over the weekend to film a documentary profiling the Amherst Rotary Club’s refugee project that saw two Syrian refugee families come to Amherst through a partnership of Rotary, First Baptist Church and Holy Family Parish.
A film crew from Rotary International was in Amherst over the weekend to film a documentary profiling the Amherst Rotary Club’s refugee project that saw two Syrian refugee families come to Amherst through a partnership of Rotary, First Baptist Church and Holy Family Parish.

AMHERST, N.S. – The Amherst Rotary Club’s refugee project is gaining international attention.

A film crew from Rotary International in Chicago was in Amherst over the weekend to film a documentary about how the community came together to welcome two Syrian refugee families to Amherst in 2016.

A film crew from Rotary International in Chicago was in Amherst over the weekend to film a documentary about how the community came together to welcome two Syrian refugee families to Amherst in 2016.

“We were looking for refugee projects that Rotary clubs were doing around the world. Andrew (Chudzinski) was Googling refugee plus Rotary and found this project,” Ryan Hyland of Rotary International’s digital and publishing division said.

Hyland, Chudzinki (who is a producer with Rotary International) and video journalist and filmmaker Pierre Kattar spent the weekend in Amherst interviewing members of the Rotary club’s refugee committee, its community partners – including First Baptist Church and Holy Family Parish – and the Syrian families.

“After looking at the information and doing some additional research we decided to come to Amherst. We spoke to some Rotary members and could feel their enthusiasm about what was done here,” Hyland said.

The documentary will eventually make its way to Rotary International’s website and be shared on social media through Facebook and Twitter.

Hyland said the film crew was struck by how well the families are doing and at the passion shown by Rotary members and all those in the community who have gone out of their way to make the families feel welcome.

“I’ve been around projects all over the world and I’ve seen a lot of passionate Rotarians but these people really care and I get the sense they are going to continue to care long after the financial support is over,” he said. “I feel these members will be part of those families for as long as they are in Amherst.”

Hyland said he’s hopeful other Rotary clubs and community organizations will do what the Amherst club has accomplished. It’s a lot of hard work, he said, but it’s well worth the effort.

Chudinski, who found the Amherst Rotary Club’s refugee project on cumberlandnewsnow, is amazed at the work being done by Rotarians and their partners.

“They are doing some wonderful work here,” he said.

Amherst Mayor Dr. David Kogon, who was filmed being briefed by refugee project members, said it’s amazing to see diverse groups coming together.

“It’s a signal to all of us as to what you can accomplish,” the mayor said. “Two families are making better lives for themselves and adding so much to the community and its culture.”

He thinks it will pave the way for more families to come to Amherst. He feels immigration is very important to the town’s future and sustaining growth.

Refugee committee co-chair David Christie said all of them went into this project as newcomers when the prospect of bringing a Syrian family to Amherst was first raised by Rotary past-president Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin in October 2015.

“The exposure we’re receiving speaks to the quality of the project. We did not solicit this interview, they came to us. We were a little surprised because we didn’t think we’d be high on anyone’s radar,” Christie said. “We thought we were just doing what other communities were doing, but we found out that what we’re doing is very unique in that we’re a Rotary club that has created a partnership with other community groups. It’s a compliment to not only Rotary, but the community in that we all were willing to work toward a common effort.”

He said there were main issues the committee never thought it would have to do, such as translation services, school, dental, medical, banking and other issues. He said the committee had tremendous support from others in the community that helped make the project a success.

“It had its challenges, but the community rose to meet those challenges,” he said.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

 

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