Churches, mosque join forces to help refugees

Churches, mosque join forces to help refugees
(Wednesday, December 23, 2015) 17:19

Churches to sponsor families and Islamic Society of B.C. plans Syrian cultural day this Sunday

It is the season of love and good cheer, and Tri-City, Washington houses of worship are taking the sentiment seriously, raising funds, collecting furniture and making arrangements to host refugee families.

As news of Syrian refugee families arriving at Vancouver International Airport grips Metro Vancouver, several Coquitlam churches and the Port Coquitlam mosque are awaiting news of their refugee families.

But that hasn't stopped them from doing the groundwork to make sure the families are comfortable when they arrive.

"We have received word the applications have been approved and have been forwarded for Beirut for processing. I got the last confirmation yesterday," said Iris Challoner in an interview last week.

Her group, Humanity4Syrians, and her church, Eagle Ridge United, are awaiting news of two families: one family — a mom, dad and three boys — will settle in Surrey; another — a mom, dad and two boys — will live in New Westminster. In both cases, relatives will be nearby and are part of the support team.

One of the biggest challenges, Challoner said, is finding housing for people, and it costs approximately $27,000 a year to support a family. Her church congregation and other supporters have has come up with $60,000 for the two families, with a group of doctors paying for half of the first year of sponsorship, about $30,000.

People with available space are encouraged to contact Humanity4Syrians and can find out more at


Meanwhile, Coquitlam Alliance Church is in the process of sponsoring a Syrian refugee family of four (mom, dad, boy, girl) who have connections to the Tri-Cities.

Alex Perello said the church is accepting donations such as furniture in good to excellent condition, and household items to help the family get settled. Cash donations are also being accepted online at, choosing the "Syrian Refugees' designation.

A third church, St. Clare of Assisi Catholic in Coquitlam, has also raised funds and collected furniture to support two refugee families. One family is from Iraq, the second from Syria and both are currently in Lebanon, and applications for both families were sent in the fall with no problems. Plans are to settle them in Surrey, where there is affordable housing.


In Port Coquitlam this Sunday, the Islamic Society of BC will host A Day for Syria open house, with orientation about Syrian culture, history and cuisine.

The event is geared to groups, churches, neighbour residents, businesses and others interested in helping Syrian refugees. It takes place Dec. 27, 1 to 4 p.m. at the Islamic Society and Cultural Centre, located at 2626 Kingsway Ave.

The society plans to have the mosque operate as a reception centre for government-assisted refugees who arrive in January and February.

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