Shaken by the news coming out of Syria in 2015, Allison Murray formed GRACE (Guildwood Refugee Action Committee) with a group of neighbours from a broad range of professions, cultural backgrounds and religious beliefs.
“I knew Guildwood had the capacity to come together as a community to help respond to this crisis by sponsoring a refugee family. We started out with a goal to sponsor one family of up to five, and to date, we’ve sponsored 10 people—two families and one man—and the man will arrive on Thursday, July 6.”
In May 2016, GRACE was introduced to a Syrian family of five who had been abandoned by their original sponsor and who has three children—one of the children is a 12-year-old boy with a neuro-muscular disease and in a wheelchair. “We started working with them by getting them connected to Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, registered the kids for school, made sure they were receiving the benefits they were entitled to, and got them connected to a Community Care Access Centre for services such as wheelchairs, home help and physiotherapy. We became their official sponsors in September 2016 and for one week we thought we could relax—and then—our Iraqi family of four arrived without notice.” With the support of many generous individuals, GRACE was able to sponsor both families and still plan for the man who would arrive for sponsorship in 2017.
Allison notes the support she’s received from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. She says, “Scarborough is really a shining example of what can be achieved through open-mindedness and acceptance of others. We are all immigrants, after all, except for the First Nations, so it behooves each of us to keep our doors and minds open.”
Semi-retired from the insurance business, Allison also volunteers at the Toronto Botanical Gardens and East Scarborough Storefront.