News Story

Church Joins in Massive Refugee Effort

Syrian refugees coming to Nova Scotia, Canada, will greatly benefit from a massive effort to prepare thousands of donated household items, clothing, furniture, toiletries and school supplies upon their arrival. The 100,000 square-foot donation centre in Halifax’s Bayers Lake Industrial Park was the sorting scene for about 30 members from a Halifax congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who volunteered February 19, 2016, to sort the donations.

Nathan Smith, a Halifax member of the Church, recently noticed the refugee centre, so he stopped to ask if they needed any help. The immediate response was a resounding “yes!” Through social media and email lists, a group of 30 Mormon parents, children, university students and missionaries was organized.

“It is the largest group from any organization to help out at any one time,” said Bob Price, one of the co-ordinators at the centre. “They are excellent workers. They put us two weeks ahead of our distribution efforts.”

The First Presidency of the Church released a letter in October 2015 encouraging members to assist in what they call the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Canada has committed to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees. Nova Scotia alone plans to accommodate about 1,500 refugees. Diana Whalen, member of the legislative assembly for Clayton Park West and justice minister for Nova Scotia, commented recently to CBC News, “We want to welcome as many as we can with open arms” (“Syrian Refugee Donation Site at Old Rona Store Closing”).

Bill Hatter, the provincial co-ordinator for the Emergency Management Office, has been working at the Bayers Lake Industrial Park donation centre since December 2015. He commented, “Not only are refugees coming from Syria, but also nations such as Iraq, the Congo and Nepal.”

One Iraqi father who was at the centre to receive much-needed items for his family expressed gratitude to everyone who donated. “We have found a lot of things we can use for this year and next,” he said through a translator. (Translators at the centre also contribute their time, helping the immigrants to make their selections.)

Members of the Church who participated on February 19 expressed heartfelt appreciation for the opportunity to serve. Natasha Young said, “It makes you more humble [when you see all of this]. It makes you appreciate the things that you have.”

In regards to the Syrian refugee crisis, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recently expressed, “I have seen [Church members] working alongside new friends of all faiths and nationalities to relieve the suffering of those who have been driven from their homes and countries. I am so grateful for the dedicated service of all involved to bring relief to those who need it most. … What we are seeing is the fulfilment of the Lord’s request to His teaching that we’re to reach out, touch and bless the lives of our Father’s children regardless of where they are, regardless what their circumstances are; we do what we can do” (“Church, Governments and Humanitarian Partners Aid Refugees in Europe”).

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