South Asian Community Taking Leading Role In Helping Syrian Refugees


By Balwant Sanghera

The public response in Canada to the Syrian refugee crisis has been overwhelming. A large number of organizations, businesses, places of worship and individuals have stepped forward to help in this worthwhile cause. The South Asian community, as usual, has again shown its generosity by making huge donations. Our Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples), Mandirs (Hindu Temples), mosques and churches have set a great example in generosity. It is very gratifying to note that Daljit Thind of Thind Properties, a prominent property developer in our community, has offered a number of units to the refugees as temporary accommodation. Also, Tony Singh of Fruiticana has offered free groceries to a large number of Syrian refugees. Such gestures from our community go a long way in creating goodwill.

According to media reports, close to ten thousand Syrian refugees have already arrived in Canada. A number of them have come to Metro Vancouver. More are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.    They will be living in nearly every community. The government sponsored refugees will get some support from the government. However, for the privately sponsored ones the onus is on the sponsoring organizations and individuals to be totally responsible for their settlement.

Earlier, Surrey Centre MP  Randip Sarai and I had brought a number of our Gurdwara representatives to-gether to find ways and means of helping the Syrian refuges. An organization called Sikh Societies of BC was formed to take the lead in this regard.   The response has been excellent. A number of Gurdwaras have collected multiple items including clothing, bedding, jackets, blankets, kitchen ware etc. Randip’s office is currently in the process of passing on these items to the agencies looking after the Syrian refugees. Also, MOSAIC has been playing a very active role in this regard. Ninu Kang and her team have been making every effort in helping the needy families.

In Richmond, St. Gregory’s Armenian Church has sponsored a lot of refugee families. Their rather small congregation must be commended for this act of kindness. India Cultural Centre of Canada’s Gurdwara Nanak Niwas (8600 #5 Road, Richmond) had appealed to its congregation to donate any items they could. The response has been amazing.  Consequently, it has collected a lot of items as well as some cash to help the Syrian refugees. Some of these items have already been handed over to the Church for distribution to the refugees.            This process was started on Friday, January 15 and will continue.

The agencies helping the refugees report that at this time, finding suitable accommodation for the Syrian refugee families is a top priority for everyone. Furthermore, there is need for furniture –beds, couches, tables, chairs, kitchen wares, canned foods, utensils etc. The organizers are also appealing to businesses to help these needy people in whatever way they can.  Also, any cash donations would be very helpful. Eventually, Syrian refugees would like to have a gainful employment. Any help in this regard would be much appreciated.

Persons willing and able to donate beds, furniture like tables, chairs chesterfields ,kitchen wares etc. as well as cash should approach their nearest place of worship and leave their contact information with the management. At appropriate time, such places of worship can pass that information on to the agencies serving the refugees who can match the stuff with the refugee family’s needs.   For further information please go the website of the Sikh Societies of BC ( and its e-mail address: [email protected].

Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.