Large family of refugees coming to Qualicum Beach

Group supporting the effort believes it could be up to 12 weeks before the family arrives in Qualicum Beach

The Qualicum Refugee Sponsorship Group has been matched with a family.

The group’s chair Carol Doering said through a news release April 14 they have been matched with a family of Karen hill tribe heritage from Myanmar.

She said the information they have received about the family is limited, but they do know the family consists of three adults (mother, father and grandmother) and five children (between the ages of six and 14).

The family speaks S’gaw, a dialect of the Karen language, and all members of the family have minimal education and are illiterate.

The family meets all the criteria for settlement in Canada and should be arriving within four to 12 weeks, said the release.

The first Karen refugees started arriving in Canada in 2006, according to the Government of Canada website. The refugees mainly came from two remote camps in Thailand; Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang that each had about 10,000 refugees.

Background information on the Government of Canada’s website said that since Burmese Karen refugees are coming from remote jungle refugee camps, adjusting to life in Canada can be a challenge, so learning about the safe use of appliances as well as fire and building safety is a priority.

More than 140 Parksville Qualicum Beach volunteers have spent more than 2,000 hours preparing to support the refugee family and are still waiting for permission to use a house owned by the Town of Qualicum Beach, according to the release.

Doering said the home is pretty much ready to go whenever the family arrives. The group has raised almost $30,000 so far. The group met with the Anglican Diocese of B.C., the sponsorship agreement holder, while reviewing the family’s profile because she said it’s a bigger commitment than they were expecting.

She said that the QRSG group needs to review its budget in light of the different needs. It might need to spend more on tutors because of the language barrier, for example, but it is looking at what services are available.

Doering said the group may have to support the family for longer than the planned year because of the extra needs.

The QRSG is still fundraising with a Cut-A-Thon at

Crops ‘N Bobbers in Bowser on April 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., an open house and silent auction on April 30 at the refugee house (181 Sunningdale Road West) and a dance and celebration on May 19 at 7 p.m. at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre.

For more information or to get involved with the QRSG effort, e-mail qualicumrsg@telus.net or call 250-974-7031.

There are currently at least 16 private sponsorship efforts in the mid-Island, including two others in Parksville Qualicum Beach. One through the Church of the Ascension Refugee Sponsorship Committee (250-954-1991) in Parksville, in line to get a young Syrian couple with a baby any day and the other through the Qualicum Community Baptist Church (250-752-9123) which has received two refugees from east Africa.

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