A Syrian woman watching the horrific refugee crisis from Saskatoon says if she was still in her country, she’d take her chances crossing the Mediterranean because it’s better than staying put.
“Because of the situation there, the destructions, explosions everywhere … it’s very dangerous and it’s very bad,” said Doha Kharsa, a 35-year-old mother of five.
Kharsa spoke at an information session at the Mennonite Central Committee in Saskatoon Tuesday night. A crowd gathered there to learn more about refugee sponsorship opportunities available through the organization.
Made up of many who have decades of experience sponsoring refugees, the group heard how Kharsa left Syria in 2012 only to end up in Malaysia, a country that does not welcome refugees, nor recognize them.
Kharsa said the suffering she endured in Syria continued in Malaysia.
“We were suffering for three years in another country and we’re very exhausted from suffering,” she said.
Finally in 2014, Kharsa came to Saskatoon after a government sponsorship and with the help of the Open Door Society, she hopes to get her husband and her son to Saskatoon as well.
“I’m also looking to get some members of my family, sisters, my brother and his family or my parents.”
Wondering when she can speak to her husband and son in Syria next, and not knowing if they will be there is taking a heavy toll on her.
“I feel in pain. I don’t feel comfortable or even that safe or happy. I feel in pain every day. It’s not that easy to live here by myself and to be responsible for five children,” Kharsa said.
“I feel in pain every day. It’s not that easy to live here by myself and to be responsible for five children.”- Doha Kharsa
The Mennonite Central Committee has been helping sponsor refugees since the late 1970s when they helped sponsor Southeast Asian refugees. Now they’re turning their attention to Syria and Iraq.
The group said anyone can help sponsor refugees but they recommended getting a group of people together as the responsibilities on the sponsorship end add up.
Start-up costs alone include household items, furniture, clothing, housing and utility hookups. Then upon arrival, sponsors must continue to work with refugees to get them enrolled in school, learn English, and provide transportation for medical and other appointments. They also help them find work and settle them into their new home.
For a family of four, the MCC estimates the start-up and settlement costs to add up to $27,000, and $2,500 more for each additional family member. The MCC is trying to lobby the federal and provincial governments to help subsidize these costs where they can, because rent and the cost of food is rising in Saskatoon.
For more information on how you can help sponsor a refugee visit the Mennonite Central Committee website