The kickoff breakfast for the Swift Current United Way’s 2017 fundraising campaign took place at the Living Sky Casino Sky Centre, March 10.
The theme “Live United” will be the focus of this year’s fundraising activities. The date for the 3rd annual Foundation of Hope Gala was also announced at the breakfast. The gala, which has become a significant event to achieve the Swift Current United Way’s annual fundraising target, will take place Nov. 4.
“The gala is a huge piece,” Swift Current United Way Executive Director Stacey Schwartz said after the breakfast. “That’s where we raise the majority of our funds.”
Donations throughout the year will also make a difference to reach the fundraising target. The 2017 amount is lower than last year’s goal.
“Last year, our goal was $135,000,” she said. “We did meet $100,000. So I would love to surpass $100,000, but we’re going to aim for that at least, like the minimum for this year.”
The funds raised during 2016 have been allocated to 10 non-profit agencies in southwest Saskatchewan. The Swift Current United Way implemented a new approach last year in disbursing funds.
The total value of the allocations to the 10 organizations was $75,650. The remaining funds were put aside for any emerging needs during 2017.
“These would be for organizations that can’t predict 12 months in advance that there is going to be a need,” she explained. “We wanted to have a little bit of a surplus in the event that there was something that arose where the community needed extra funds, whether they couldn’t get it from the government or whatever, that we would be able to step in and meet that need.”
A portion of that funding was already allocated. An amount of $6,000 is used to provide childcare services to newcomer families who are attending English as a second language classes at Great Plains College.
The guest speaker at the kickoff breakfast was award-winning Canadian broadcaster Molly Thomas. She grew up in Regina, but is now doing freelance work in Toronto. She is a contributor to the national, faith-based, current affairs show Context with Lorna Dueck.
Thomas spoke about her recent visits to the Middle East and the plight of internally-displaced persons and Syrian refugees in the region. She discussed ways for people to provide support to refugees who are coming to Canada. She cautioned the audience against fake facts that can hold them back from connecting with these newcomers. She referred to different ways people can welcome refugees. They can treat them as neighbours, they can be more culturally aware and ask questions, and they can become involved to create a sense of community for the new arrivals.
“I think the most important thing is they are newcomers, they are neighbours coming in to our communities and what are we going to do about it,” she said afterwards about her message. “How are we going to respond to these people, how are we going to treat them, and how can we be prepared? So I really hope that people took away just ways that they can invest in their community, invest in their neighbours and get to know people from a whole different walk of life, a whole different cultural background, but they can still be the people that are just next door.”
She referred to her own experience as a child of immigrants who came to Saskatchewan. While growing up she saw people wearing their Roughriders jerseys, but she did not understand its relevance to the culture of the province.
“My parents didn’t really get it, to be honest, I didn’t really get it, until a few Saskatchewan families start taking us to games, explaining what the history was, explaining the downs and the ups,” she said. “I want to see Syrian families at Roughrider games so they understand why that is community for us, what that makes people believe in Saskatchewan. Those are things we need to do, but people aren’t going to get it on their own. It’s going to take Saskatchewan people coming beside them to do that.”
According to Thomas, there is a lot of misinformation about refugees and it is important to double check information through credible news sources. The people she has met in Jordan, Iraq and Turkey have all fled their homes because their lives were in danger.
“These are people that never would have left if they had the chance and so they had to flee,” she said. “They are more angry than you are about what’s happening in their country, and they’re so hurt and distraught about what’s happening. We need to get rid of that fear of refugees. These are not the people that are being threats, they’re being threatened.”
It is therefore important for people to learn more about refugees and it has become easier to do because more than 40,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in Canada since November 2015.
“There’s really no excuse for anyone in the Canadian community not to be able to get some answers,” she said. “They’re around us, they’re in small communities like Swift Current. The question is, are we going to be bold enough to go out and actually make these connections and ask questions?”