By Evan Ceretti
Feb. 26, 2016
Christine Leukert felt helpless when she would watch news stories about the refugee crisis in Europe.
That changed when she learned P.E.I. would be accepting 250 Syrian refugees.
The 29-year-old from Charlottetown decided she wanted to help, and so she made some calls to see what she could do.
Last October she started a campaign on Facebook to collect clothes for the newly arriving refugees.
“A lot of people have extra clothes laying around.”
Her endeavour took off.
“It got large very quickly.
“People from other communities wanted to get involved.”
Leukert arranged different clothing drop-off stations across the Island, including in Charlottetown, Montague, Summerside and Kensington.
One of the drop-off locations was at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlottetown.
Gerald Gabriel is the coordinator of formation, research and public communication at the diocese. Leukert contacted the diocese looking for a place where people could drop off clothes, he said.
The diocese is a SAH (Sponsorship Agreement Holder). Its bishop is allowed to sign applications to sponsor refugees, said Gabriel.
The diocese sponsors Syrian families on an ongoing basis.
“You know the need is so great,” said Gabriel.
All in all, Leukert was able to collect over 3,500 pounds of clothing.
“It was encouraging to see so many Islanders getting involved.”
A U-Haul was used to store all the clothing after it was dropped off.
Grace Christian School then provided a location for the clothing to be sorted. A seamstress came in to repair any damaged clothing.
“Everybody just came together. People were generous with their time.”
Leukert partnered with Hannah Jones at the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada to create a space where the clothing could be displayed for families to come in and shop for free.
It was a great success, a lot of families benefiting from getting new winter clothing, said Leukert.
Although Leukert wasn’t able to communicate verbally with the refugees, she was happy to communicate through body language and smiling.
Jones, coordinator of PEIANC’s Welcome Project, said there were about 16 families shopping on that afternoon. All but one family was Syrian.
The success was tremendous, said Jones.
Since the change in the Federal government, P.E.I has received 100 individuals, and an anticipated 150 more should be arriving, said Jones.
“It’s and ongoing process.”
Though the PEIANC has collected enough clothing for newcomers to the Island, other items are still in demand. Furniture is the biggest need, said Jones.
There was about 2,000 pounds of clothing left over. The clothing was sold to Value Village for $0.15 a pound, and the funds were donated to the PEIANC.
Leukert said the whole experience was great and has been very rewarding.
“I’ve learned a lot.
“The community really supported this initiative.”