Written by Aden Hamza
The Syrian crisis has drawn attention and concern from around the globe, with many wondering what they can do to help those who are suffering. In the city of London, Ontario, a group of young women from the Muslim community responded promptly to this need by creating the Salam Donation Centre, a centre which provides donated household items to newcomers and refugees. The Salam Donation centre is a community-run initiative, operated entirely by volunteers and donations, which act on behalf of the community to support newcomers and refugees to Canada, regardless of background or faith. I had the opportunity to interview one of their organizers, Lana El Kadri, to learn more about how the Centre started and their contribution to the community.
Following the election last fall, the Canadian government announced that thousands of Syrian refugees would be supported in Canada, and when these young women found out that their city would be welcoming the refugees, they wanted to facilitate their transition as best as possible. The Salam Donation Centre facilitates the giving and receiving of household donations to those in need. The Centre was initiated and is run by 8 young women within the community, with a total dedicated volunteer group of 15, with their location being donated by a property management organization.
Initially set up as a short-term initiative to assist Syrian refugees, the Centre has continued to operate and expand to meet the needs of the larger refugee and newcomer community in London. The Centre provides a local avenue for people to contribute to those in need, regardless of their background, with the main goal of helping make settlement easier for those new to Canada. Since opening their doors six months ago, the Salam Donation Centre has served over 325 newcomer families (which is approximately 2000 individuals) who are government and privately sponsored in the London area, and will continue to run until the needs of the community are met. Through this centre, newcomers and refugees now had access to a whole range of gently used and new household items they needed – from car seats and strollers to kitchenware and furniture.
The women who initiated the Centre are supported by the many London Muslim organizations and have collaborated with many local organizations such as United Way, Cross Cultural Learners Centre, London Muslim Mosque, South London Resource Centre and the Regional Board of Education. In addition, they have worked alongside many churches who have sponsored refugees and collaborated with community organizations, civil society organizations and community drives. However, the Donation Centre has not been without it’s challenges, as the Centre at one point considered closing it’s doors when their donated space had to be vacated for a tenant. Fortunately, the organizers persevered and were able to quickly connect with local supports to find a new and more permanent space for their Centre to continue it’s great work.
The leadership and dedication of these women have not gone unnoticed, as they were recently recognized by the Mayor of London for their amazing contributions. As a group of tireless volunteers, they continue to ensure that newcomers to Canada are supported in their transition and have what they need to adjust to their new life. We are immensely proud to have such a strong demonstration of leadership and empowerment within our community.
To contact the group or donate please see their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SalamDonations/timeline