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Toronto welcoming Syrian refugees with acts of kindness

“We’ve bought them little presents, especially for the kids, and we have winter jackets ready,” said Claudia Blume, a member of The Ripple Refugee Project.

In this Nov. 4, 2015, file photo, people wait in line to enter the migrant and refugee registration camp in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece. Ontario has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, many of which will be settled in Toronto.

AP PHOTO

In this Nov. 4, 2015, file photo, people wait in line to enter the migrant and refugee registration camp in Moria, on the island of Lesbos, Greece. Ontario has pledged to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, many of which will be settled in Toronto.

When Syrian refugees arrive in Toronto, they will be welcomed with acts of kindness.

The federal government is expected to announce details today of its plans to bring in 25,000 government-sponsored refugees by the end of the year. Meanwhile, some privately sponsored refugees are expected to arrive this week.

Torontonians who’ve pledged to sponsor Syrian families have been busy getting ready to provide them with the most important necessities of life in Canada, like housing and health cards. But they’re also arranging smaller, personal gestures of welcome.

“We’ve bought them little presents, especially for the kids, and we have winter jackets ready,” said Claudia Blume, a member of The Ripple Refugee Project, one of the many groups sponsoring a refugee family through Lifeline Syria.

One of eight members of the Syrian family her group is sponsoring is expected to arrive this week, Blume said.

The group hasn’t yet received word when the others will arrive, but, when they do, the Ripple group will have social events including a brunch and holiday party and take them on a sightseeing tour of Toronto with a volunteer Arabic-speaking guide.

“We just organized some booster seats for the kids, so we can take them around by car,” she said.

The small, kind gestures will give them a warm welcome and set the tone for their lives in Canada, said Blume. Most importantly, they’re an antidote to intolerance and hate that have been in the news.

“These people have fled the exact people who have committed the atrocities we’ve seen,” Blume said. “These people are not terrorists, they have fled the war. They are victims.”

The groups working to make the refugees feel welcome are as diverse as Toronto itself.

There’s been an outpouring of help that’s crossed religious lines, said Jodi Block, community integration specialist with JIAS (Jewish immigrant Aid Services) Toronto, which has long been a sponsorship agency.

“I was just in communication this morning with a group that’s Sikh, Christian and Muslim, and they’re working through a Jewish organization,” she said. “It’s been an incredible experience.”

That particular group is sponsoring two families, she said.

The Arab Community Centre of Toronto’s three locations—two in Etobicoke and one in Scarborough—will be hubs for privately sponsored refugees, as well as the government-assisted refugees who will be arriving soon.

Torontonians have come to the centre offering all manner of help, executive director Huda Bukhari said.

Syrian-Canadians are volunteering in full-force, a Moroccan women’s association called Argana has volunteered to host an Arab evening with a welcoming ceremony and a meal of couscous, and people who happen to work in the building where the centre’s located have stopped in to ask what they can do, she said.

“I have never seen a more welcoming community than what Toronto is doing for the Syrian refugees,” Bukhari said. “I have never seen a more generous community, than toward the refugees who are coming in.”

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