Dinner raises funds, awareness for refugees

A fundraiser on Saturday night brought in $6,655 towards the efforts of relocating a refugee family to Port Alberni.

Leslie Wright

A fundraiser on Saturday night brought in $6,655 towards the efforts of relocating a refugee family to Port Alberni.

Volunteers with the Port Alberni Refugee Sponsorship Committee and the Guru Nanak Sikh Society hosted a dinner of traditional East Indian cuisine. The sold out event was a success financially and was also a chance for the community to learn more about the state of refugees in Canada and immigrants living in Port Alberni.

“It went over really well and people enjoyed the meal,” said Leslie Wright, PARSC member.

The event began with a First Nations welcome by Tseshaht member Luke George and a speech by Mayor Mike Ruttan.

Palo Sall, a member of the Guru Nanak Sikh Society since 1992, spoke of the history of the East Indian community.

Sall has been a resident of Port Alberni since 1963 and during her time here, became friends with George McKnight.

“He mentioned that Sikh men were spotted around 1894 or 1895 in the Sproat Lake area,” she said. “They were working at Great Central.”

Sall’s husband, Sam, had a paternal grandfather living in Ladysmith since 1905 and his maternal grandfather arrived in Port Alberni in 1940.

“So we have quite a bit of history here,” she said.

Sall also said it is important to help those in need.

“On a humanitarian basis, we want to help anyone who needs help,” she said. “To us it doesn’t matter who they are, whether they are Christian or Muslim, it doesn’t make a difference.”

Dr. Mo Umran, of Syrian descent, said he believes refugees would be grateful to be given a chance to build a life in Port Alberni.

Although a small town, Port Alberni is a melting pot of people practicing many different faiths and traditions.

The fundraiser was completed with a slide show of the challenges people are facing in Syria.

The society has raised more than $15,000 to date towards its goal of $30,000 to $35,000. Members were informed that they could receive word of a family’s arrival with as little as three days notice and are prepared with a furnished, temporary rental home.

With the help of the Canadian government providing 50 per cent of the monthly expenses for the first six months, the society is preparing to support a large family of up to eight.

Funds are still needed and tax receipts will be issued for donations.

Once the society finds out details on family members, a list of items required will be posted on the website at www.parsc.ca.