Syrian toddler’s death on Turkish beach prompted Toronto sponsors

'I feel very lucky': Jim Handman

A Toronto couple says that Canadians have showed a good response when it comes to helping Syrian refugees.

Jim Handman and Renee Pellerin are among the organizers of the Kensington Assistance for Refugees private sponsorship group. They were motivated to help after seeing the image of Alyn Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy, who was found dead on a beach in Turkey after trying to flee the civil war. The photo was seen all over the world and moved many, including Handman and Pellerin.

“I think the media created a sympathetic atmosphere in Canada that allowed the government to bring 25, 000 refugees and helped private groups to raise the money they needed to bring in more refugees,” Handman said, during an interview at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre in April.

Dena Shah, Zia Zarawar, Renee Pellerin, Jim Handman and Kasy Pertab at Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre April 17, 2017.  (Toronto Observer staff)

The KARE group’s Syrian family arrived March 20, 2017 in Toronto, and is about to move into a permanent apartment in East York on June 1. In the meantime, the sponsors have been collecting furniture and making medical and other arrangements for the Syrian couple and their three children: a daughter, 12, and two sons, 10, and 8.

Other Torontonians have been very kind and helpful to the newcomers, since their arrival, Pellerin explained.  Her dentist offered to treat the Syrian family for free, as a way to give back.

“When you get old enough you get to know a lot of people and it gives us resources that we can call upon to help,” Pellerin said.

Many countries have taken very conservative stances and are rejecting taking in refugees in need. Handman is very proud of Canada’s reaction to the crisis.

“In a time when other countries are building walls and turning their back on refugees, I am very proud that this country is welcoming them as we always have, and I feel very lucky to have been born in this country and have the opportunity to help those who have been less fortunate,” he said.