l4syria

Lakeshore 4 Syria

We’ve all seen the heartbreaking pictures.  Families, forced to make an impossible decision to protect the very things many of us in Canada benefit from every day – safety as we sleep, food in abundance, education for our children…the ability to live freely and enjoy peace in our daily lives.

As parents, we’ve seen those horrible images in the media as a call to action. We are Lakeshore Moms – a group of parents living in Toronto’s west end communities – and we want to help one family leave behind the perils of war to find a new beginning here in Canada. Please help us turn our goal into a reality.

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Welcome home!

Last September, a group of six moms met in Jackie’s living room. We were all deeply saddened by the images coming from Syria, and we were all moved to do something. On that night we weren’t quite sure what we could do, we didn’t know who we could help but we all knew that we had to do something. In the weeks that followed we reached out to more local parents, and shared our thoughts about raising money, gathering help and by the end of September 2015 we formed Lakeshore Syrian Connection, a group of parents living in Toronto’s west end communities committed to helping one family find a new beginning here in Canada.

We started fundraising over Thanksgiving weekend and the response was immediate. So many people wanted to help. We were overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of our friends, family and community members. We launched a Facebook page – and a website. We started planning fundraising events (Skating Party, Valentine’s Dance, Comedy Night). And we were even on the news!! By the end of November 2015 we were a third of the way to our fundraising goal and ready to start having serious conversations with a sponsorship agreement holder (SAH). Emily and Tanya worked tirelessly to find the right SAH partner and we were so lucky when we found JIAS. When we connected with JIAS and saw how committed they were to our effort we knew our dream of sponsoring a Syrian family would become a reality.

Through the winter and spring of 2016 we worked hard fundraising, collecting furniture and starting to plan for our family. The best day of 2016 was in May when we found out who our family was. JIAS told us just a little bit about each of you; your names, ages and a bit about your story. Even though we never met you, and didn’t even know what you looked like we immediately cared deeply about each of you. Last fall we wrote on our website that we were hopeful that next fall a new family will be able to enjoy the natural wonder of an Ontario autumn day and here you are. Now today, September 14, 2016 is our new favourite day because it’s the day that we get to meet you and help you start building your new home and life in Canada.
Welcome home! We’re so happy you are here!
~ Lakeshore Syrian Connection

 

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The next chapter

We couldn’t be more excited right now! This is the update we’ve been waiting to share since we started on this journey last fall. JIAS has advised us that our sponsorship family was interviewed and approved on the spot. We anticipate their arrival in Canada by August or September….and possibly sooner.

Later this year we will be meeting Amera (mom), Ali (Dad), Dalaa (13), Dena (10) and Miar (4) who are currently living in a small town in Turkey where the children have been attending school. They will be reunited with Amera’s sister who already lives in the GTA.  Some members of our group have had the opportunity to meet Amera’s sister to learn more about the family. We were told that our family is eager to start life in Canada, even though we anticipate that there will be a learning curve and some obstacles ahead.

We can’t wait to welcome our family and help them start their journey as new Canadians!

St Andrews PS

Our leaders for tomorrow

The following is a letter from students at St. Andrews PS.  It demonstrates how generosity and goodwill can inspire others.

Dear Lakeshore Mothers,

Just imagine how much more different our lives would be if we lived in a world where everyone had food, shelter, water and no wars. We want that world for everyone! Through school, t.v., and newspapers we knew that there were people who needed those simple things to live. Syrian Refugees are people just like us-who matter! Everyday, we were hearing about some Syrian parents who were putting their kids on to boats to escape the war, and not knowing  if they would see them again.  A few of us in grade 5, Savannah, Husnah, Malaikah, Despina,  and Sophia wanted to make a difference!  A big difference!

We almost forgot to tell you about our incredible teacher, Mr. Lewis! If it was not for him, we wouldn’t have surpassed our original goal of raising $500.00.  He was so helpful. He helped us write announcements, count the money (teaching us banking skills), and he gave us the idea of sending the funds to you guys, “The Lakeshore Syrian Connection.”

He also helped supervised us with the help of Ms. Sinardi (another grade 5 teacher).

Here is how this amazing idea started.  One morning, Savannah and Husnah were talking about how to help make a difference and decided a bake sale fundraiser would be a good idea, however, we had no clue where we would send the money. It was then Malaikah who had the idea to send the money we would raise to help a Syrian family.  That day, we went to Mr. Lewis “the great,” to tell him about the amazing idea. We also asked him to supervise us. Although he agreed, he said we needed more help.  So we went to our friends, Despina and Sophia.  They enthusiastically agreed! After school, we all went to our parents, and they all agreed to bake with us.  They were all in and excited!

We would like to greatly thank our moms, dads who worked tirelessly to bake every night for two weeks to support us. We would also like to thank the junior teachers for contributing additional baked goods to our bake sale.  We would especially like to thank Ms. Rowe for her giant contributions of yummy treats!

What inspired us, was watching the media coverage of “heart breaking” conditions the Syrian families were experiencing. We all felt the same way! We could not take it anymore! That’s why we started the fundraiser.  These kids and families did not deserve these terrible acts of war. We had to make a difference. We had to help.  In fact, Husnah and Malaikah went to a Syrian Refugee fundraising dinner with their family, where they showed many sad clips of the events and told many sad stories. For example, kids were asking for one piece of bread and families were hiding in tunnels. Their homes were destroyed and there was no school.

We are so proud to present Lakeshore Syrian Connection with a cheque for $666.90. Wow!

Love,

Malaikah, Husnah, Savannah, Despina & Sophia from St. Andrews PS

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An update for our supporters!

We did it!  We managed to exceed our fundraising goals and raise over $80,000 thanks to the hard work of all our volunteers and generosity of our supporters & community.

The family

  • We are happy to officially announce that our sponsorship application has been submitted for a family of five (Mom, Dad and three children). While nothing is certain, we anticipate their arrival in the next three to five months. They have extended family that currently live in the GTA that will work with us to support their transition to life in Canada.
  • Additionally, we are collaborating with another group to provide financial assistance to support the sponsorship of a family of seven.
  • Finally, with the additional funds raised, we have the capacity to sponsor another family and we are working with JIAS to identify another opportunity. If we are successful, our group will be able to help three families find security in Canada.

Thank you, all this great news is thanks to the time, support and compassion our volunteers, supporters & community have provided. It’s been quite the journey over the past few months and we’re happy to complete the first phase of the sponsorship process.

There is still a considerable amount of work to do over the next year to help our families settle in Canada. Lakeshore Syrian Connection is looking forward to beginning the next phase of this journey.

If you have any questions about this update or next steps, please email lakeshoresyrianconnection@gmail.com.

Thank you again!

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Comedy Night!

Join us for some laughs on February 6.  We have a killer lineup of really funny people generously giving their time in support of Lakeshore Syrian Connection. Get your tickets today!

DETAILS:
When:
Saturday, Feb 6, 2016
Where:
St. Margaret’s New Toronto, 156 SIXTH ST
Host: Kate Davis (CTV’s Comedy Now, CBC’s The Debaters, The Mom Show, Best Before Show)

STAND UP:
Precious Chong (Hallmark Movie-Loves Complicated, Canadian Comedy Award Nominee-Sex and the Single Parent)
DJ Demers (Conan O’Brian, CBC Radio’s Laugh Out Loud, The Debaters)
Chris Locke (Just For Laugh’s, CBC’s Debaters, Mr. D.)

IMPROV:
Ashley Comeau (Degrassi, Odd Squad, Second City)
Paul Constable ( Second City Alumni, The Canadian Tire Guy)
Nigel Downer (Second City Alumni, CBC Punchline)
Nug Nahrgang (Dark Rising, Sportsbet’s Aftermath, Illusionoid)
Allie Price (Second City Alumni)
Leslie Seiler (Second City Alumni, Comedy Inc, The Ron James Show)
Pat Smith (Second City Tour Co. Alumni, Canadian Film Centre Alumni)
Connor Thompson (Second City Alumni, Time Drones, Cracked)

AND, live music by Alexander Quail (http://www.alexanderquail.com/)

Cash bar and delicious food for purchase from West City SnackBar

We’ll also be holding a raffle with some amazing prizes:

  • Spartan Gymnastic Birthday Party Package. $250
  • A Gift Card to Fogh Marine for $250.
  • Big Rock Brewery Beer Bundle of Goodies! $100

And….    **Two General Admission full event passes to Boots and Hearts this August. Headlining Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Sam Hunt. A value of $650! (Courtesy of Republic Live and BMLG)**

 

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Skating for Syrians

On January 23rd,  Lakeshore Syrian Connection members hosted a Family Fun Skate at Colonel Sam Smith Park. I wanted to share what encouraged me to organize this community event. I have been so fortunate to be a member of the Lakeshore moms when I had my first child 7 years ago. I was feeling really lonely and isolated and wanted to reach out to other new moms like myself. Sure enough there were many moms in Mimico, Long Branch and Alderwood who offered me great support those first years home with my son and then daughter.  When I saw that some of my friends from the Lakeshore Moms had started the Lakeshore Syrian Connection I wanted to be a part of it too. The image of that little Syrian boy washed up on shore on the cover of the newspaper was heart breaking. Maybe we could help prevent that tragedy from reoccurring by sponsoring a family to come live in the Lakeshore community. 

I am personally connected to sponsorship. Both of my parents are success stories of sponsorship. My paternal grand father came to Canada in 1958 from Belgium in a desperate search for a better life for his family. He saved up and sponsored my grandmother and father to join him here in Canada. My maternal grand parents were struggling under the communist regime in Romania, they were sponsored by a relative to live a better life in Canada too. As a daughter of immigrants I thought it was important to help support the sponsorship of Syrian refugees. I am very excited to meet the new families that will be a part of our community. I hope that we raise a lot of money for them on January 23rd. I feel so fortunate to live amongst these amazing women and hope that our efforts for sponsorship can bring a bright future to a Syrian family like it did for my own. 

Community support has been overwhelming. Every one of my friends and neighbours has asked me how they could help out with this event. My friend Laura Simpson provided us with a generous  corporate donation from Bosley Real Estate. James Maloney was in attendance offering their support of the cause and Mark Grimes and his chief of staff Kim Edgars were extremely helpful and made sure this event became a reality. A big thank you to everyone who came out to support us! 

— Jackie McGrath

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Star Academy students inspired by #compassion

We have all reached out and shared our initiative and goals with friends and family around us and I wanted to just share how inspiring we have been to a very close friend of mine Gareth Jones and his students at Star Academy.

A few months ago I had shared with Gareth what our group was trying to achieve and he felt so inspired and wanted to help in some way and decided to bring this into his classroom. He teaches grade 7/8 at Star Academy which is a small private school on Dixie Rd, taking students from Mississauga and Toronto. It offers very small class sizes for a more personal learning environment and only has 60 students in the whole school! He shared with his class (which happens to be all boys this year) what our group was doing, discussed the situation in Syria, and what life as a refugee might entail. In response, two of his students donated from their own savings a large sum toward our cause. He then went on to adapt their Christmas performance, Charles Dickens ‘a Christmas carol’ to convince people not to be modern day Scrooges and to open their minds and put their hands in the pockets. He even used our beautiful ‘house’ on display during the play. Each year the school does a new mitten and coat drive and this year they have decided to donate to our family and other Syrian refugee groups in the surrounding area.

We had the pleasure of going in to Star Academy and were warmly welcomed by the principal Belinda Bernardo, the vice principal Pam Rennie, and this lovely group of boys. They had several questions for us and were so excited to find out how they could continue to help. We received a cheque for over $700 that the school had raised in just the few weeks leading up to Christmas holidays. Additionally, the school has offered their summer programme for our family if they so choose, academic and adventure. It’s an academic and adventure type camp for the month of July for students up to grade 8.

I feel so grateful to be a part of a wonderful group and am amazed at how many people are inspired by the Lakeshore Syrian connection.

– Meghan Skinner, LSC volunteer

Update: January 27
Isaiah, another student from Star Academy, was inspired by our mission and told his family. His father, Nathan Bryant, is the pastor at Grace Community Church and they made the gracious decision to donate their ENTIRE Christmas Eve offering of $1890.50 to LSC. HOW AMAZING!!!! Thanks so much to Grace Community Church of Mississauga!

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Isaiah and his mom Jennifer.

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Compassion cocktails with Rush Lane

The owners and staff of Rush Lane recently made a generous donation to our fundraising efforts.‎ For the month of December, all proceeds from the sale of a cocktail called “The Winter Storm” were developed in our honour, and the money collected from the sale of raffle tickets at Rush Lane’s holiday party,  was collected to be presented to a group of Lakeshore Syrian Connection committee members. 

We had a wonderful time planning the next phase of fundraising activities to help us reach our goal and celebrating our successes to-date at this hip Queen West venue.

Rush Lane’s manager, Zak Doy, presented us with the cheque and said he was honoured that he and his staff were able to be involved in such a worthwhile initiative that will change the lives of Syrian refugees. 

We would like to extend a huge thank you to Zak, Jordan, Simon, Alex, Rachel, and all the ‎other owners and staff of Rush Lane for their support!

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47 days to go…

January update

Happy New Year! It’s been awhile since you’ve heard from us here, but we can assure you that we’ve been working very hard behind the scenes with JIAS. We are happy to report that we have been matched with a family but we are in the early stage of the application process so unfortunately we are unable to provide specific details at this time.

When we first launched in October we never imagined how much support we would have from this community. Our initial goal was to raise $27,000 to support a family of 4. In just a few months we have doubled that and have now raised approximately $60,000.

The group has discussed many options as to how to use the additional funds and although we have yet to make a final decision, we know the situation is dire and our intention is to help as many people as possible as fast as we can.

To build on our current momentum, we will be fundraising until February 29, 2016 with a new goal of $75,000. There are lots of great events coming up over the next month and we encourage you to participate to help us reach that goal.

In addition, we are now promoting our furnishings website and accepting donations for grocery cards, TTC tokens and excellent used condition household furnishings and appliances.

We would like to thank our volunteers, our very generous donors, and everyone who has shown support for Lakeshore Syrian Connection. This would have never been possible without the help from each and every one of you.

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Our Difference Makers

Inspired by the kindness of neighbours and the spirit of our community, on November 27 Cameron Joynt and Saeideh Fard spearheaded the Matching Challenge. In just over two weeks, and thanks to them and all our other generous donors, we’ve surpassed our initial fundraising goal. Stay tuned for more details, we are very excited to tell you more about the direction of our initiative.

The following post was written by Cameron and Saeideh, they explain why supporting our campaign was so important to them.

Like many other people, we have been saddened and angered by the advance of IS in Syria, and by the flight of much of the Syrian population as a result.  What really drove home the absolute desperation of the situation for us was images of huge numbers of people walking across Europe to escape the refugee camps.  IS offends us on a deep level, and our hearts went out to the people walking thousands of miles in misery to escape them, but we were also struck by the realization that these were the people who had the means and ability to flee … the plight of those left behind is worse.

Once we learned about the Canadian private sponsorship program our decision was clear.  We cannot think of a bigger impact that our donation dollars could make than saving a family from IS and a life spent in a refugee camp.  We also expect it will be incredibly powerful to actually meet the recipient of our donation face to face and know that we had a direct hand in changing their lives.  We are regular donors to a number of charities, but often the donation goes to a general fund and it is hard to know what specifically your money did.  In this case, the impact that we will be able to make is both tangible and personal, which made this cause an easy one to get behind.

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