Oak Bay Friends donate funds to aid refugees

Friends of Hampshire House group offers funds collected to support housing needs

Oak Bay’s Friends of Hampshire House neighbourhood group gave $1,750 to both the Inter-Cultural Association and St. Philip Church to support Syrian refugee families.

Group members Jan Mears, Joseph Blake, Rod Sim and Rick Marshall presented the funds earlier this month at the Oaks restaurant.

The group raised the money in June at a benefit concert with the band Saffron, performing with guest violinist Sari Alesh. The group had hoped the municipally owned house at 1531 Hampshire Rd. could be renovated and used to temporarily house families arriving from Syria, but the project stalled when no formal group came forward to head it up.

“We didn’t want to let the money raised sit in the bank when there was so much need among the refugee community, so we offered to donate it to the housing funds of ICA and St. Philip Church,” Blake said.

The money will be put to good use, said Christine Anderson, with St. Philip’s Syrian Refugee Committee. “We’ve raised $55,000, and this donation of $1,750 will definitely help our family. We can really use more help housing our second refugee family. They arrived from their home in Homs, Syria with very high needs. The father was shot and is in a wheelchair. One of their children was also shot, but has fully recovered,” Anderson said.

About 380 Syrian refugees have arrived in the Capital Region to date, with families continuing to arrive virtually every week, said Jean McRae, CEO of the Inter-Cultural Association. Several hundred more individuals are expected before the end of the year, both government- and privately sponsored.

The Friends of Hampshire House grant was unexpected but much appreciated.

“There’s still a need and as people get to the end of their first year there’s going to be a need there too,” McRae said, noting the support needed for the families is varied. “Housing is certainly an ongoing issue. Quite a few of the people have had health and dental needs and that can be expensive.”

Additionally, ICA is always looking for volunteers in areas ranging from conversation clubs to help families build language skills to “hosts” to help families become familiar with their new community.

For information, visit www.icavictoria.org or call 250-388-4728.