An Afghan refugee family will soon be the recipient of a very generous donation from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Local 1620.
|St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Local 1620 donated CA$30,000 to an organization helping refugees resettle from Afghanistan. The funds should be enough to help a family of four for about one year.
"This is an excellent example of the spirit of the IBEW and its commitment to be not just the best electrical workers but true community partners," said International First District Vice President Thomas Reid. "I couldn't be prouder of Local 1620 and their compassion toward the Afghan people who can now call Canada home."
The Afghan refugees, 116 of whom landed in St. John's in late October, were forced to flee their homeland when the Taliban overtook the government last summer. The majority worked with Canadian and NATO partners as translators or embassy staff and as a result of this work, they and their families have been targeted by the Taliban.
"As we are aware, during the course of the war against tyranny in Afghanistan, extremely brave and principled Afghan people chose to stand up and work cooperatively with Canadian and NATO-led efforts to create security, to help educate children, including girls, to build infrastructure to improve the quality of life within Afghanistan and to bring greater social justice to everyone in that country," Gerry Byrne, minister of immigration, population growth and skills said in a statement. "They did so knowing that this would place them in direct harm's way from those who opposed these efforts."
The Association for New Canadians, a refugee resettlement organization, has been helping the families get settled. And due to the benevolence of the community, they have been flooded with donations, including more items like clothing and furniture than they know what to do with.
"Even before the doors opened, there was a lineup of cars in the parking lot and there has been every day that we've been open. … I don't recall ever having experienced anything like this before," Alice Keough, the association's community connections coordinator, told the CBC.
But the CA$30,000 donation from Local 1620 stands out as particularly significant because it could potentially take care of an entire family of four for the next year.
"It may take someone years to raise the amount of money to sponsor family members," Megan Morris, executive director of the ANC, told the CBC. "This money will mean that [process] is expedited completely and can be put in place almost immediately."
The Local 1620 membership has done very well over the past number of years because of the Lower Churchill Project, a massive hydroelectric job that employed some 1,400 members in the province. After seeing a news story on television about Afghan refugees coming to Newfoundland and Labrador, Jeff Fahey, an executive board member, called Business Manager Don Murphy with the suggestion to help. So, they brought in the ANC for a presentation and the board approved the contribution.
"Local 1620 members are ecstatic about having made such a generous donation," Murphy said. "The Afghan people need help as did Canadians when they were in Afghanistan. And the ANC needed funding to support the Afghan people. It's not a hand out, it's a hand up."
The money came from earnings from general revenues, Murphy said, including the funds received from the Lower Churchill Project, which are strategically invested by Local 1620. Currently, the local's membership stands at around 570 members who work in outside construction, utility and building maintenance.
Those investment revenues allow Local 1620 to effectively operate as well as give them the ability to make such a gift to the ANC. That said, this is the first time they've given such a substantial amount.
"We have made donations before, certainly, but nothing of this magnitude," Murphy said.
While they didn't do it for the attention, Murphy says they are nevertheless thankful for the spotlight their local has gotten.
"We're just trying to elevate who we are, what we do and how we can be the union of choice in this province," Murphy said.
There's also a need for more workers that could potentially be aided by the influx of new Canadians.
"If we can assist immigration then immigration can assist labour and help address the shortage of workers in the province," Murphy said.
At the end of the day though, Murphy says the donation was the right thing to do for the right reason — helping those in need.
"They're starting a new life. They've landed on a new land, in a new country, on a new continent, so I can't even imagine what that must feel like," Murphy said.