U of L committee’s fundraising efforts to help Syrian refugees garner wide support

A fundraising effort organized by the University of Lethbridge Refugee Action committee in September has already raised more than $26,000 and enough household goods to fill four garages and a donated storage space.

The committee, led by University Chaplain Erin Phillips and Dr. Anne Dymond, a U of L associate professor in the Department of Art, created a Facebook page called “UofL Refugee Action” and put the call out to U of L faculty and staff. Offers of help began to pour in.

From left to right, Holly McCartney, Marinna Grajauskas and Jacklyn Peloquin, sell holiday cards in Markin Hall to raise funds for the U of L Refugee Action Committee. The students are members of a new club on campus to be affiliated with the World University Service of Canada. The club has yet to be ratified by the U of L Students' Union.

“We’ve had a fantastic response and, while the money is really important, it’s only one part of it,” says Dymond. “The really inspiring part is people’s reactions. Almost everyone who donated money said they want to help settle people and donate household goods or provide language lessons or be actively involved in other ways.”

The U of L Refugee Action committee is one of several subgroups working under the banner of the “From Syria to Lethbridge” group started by the Lethbridge Mennonite Church. Many churches across southern Alberta are also part of the initiative and, collectively, they plan to bring at least seven Syrian refugee families to Lethbridge. The U of L component has committed to support one family of four.

To help them reach their fundraising goal of $36,000, various fundraisers have been organized by students, faculty and staff.

The U of L Conservatory Choirs, led by Kathy Matkin-Clapton, have recorded a Christmas CD and pledged to donate $2 from the sale of every CD. ‘A Winter’s Night’ can be purchased through CD Babyor through the U of L Conservatory of Music Choirs website. CDs can also be purchased at the Casa front desk, Prim Health and Beauty, and Joey’s Seafood Restaurant. Multiple CDs can be ordered through Matkin-Clapton at

Dr. Brian Black, a U of L music professor, has organized one benefit concert and two more are in the works.

U of L students will be selling holiday cards this week at various locations across campus. The card, designed by U of L alumna April Matisz (BFA ’09), has been printed courtesy of the President’s Office. The cost is $2 per card, $5 for three or $15 for 10.

“I put it on our Facebook page and got orders for 170 in less than half an hour,” says Dymond.

Students have also created their own fundraising efforts. A group of students in the Global Citizenship Cohort has organized a bottle drive on Dec. 12 and 13.

In addition, students are setting up a new club on campus affiliated with the World University Service of Canada (WUSC). The organization’s Student Refugee Program allows Canadian students to raise funds to help student refugees realize their educational goals at Canadian post-secondary schools.

“In January, they’ll do a drive to increase awareness. They’ve been such active contributors to our side of the project,” says Dymond. “It has been lovely to see those students working together because they’ve come from all across campus.”

Anyone interested in helping out can connect to the committee through its Facebook page. Because the U of L cannot issue tax receipts for donations destined for another organization, the funds raised by the U of L committee are going to the Anglican Church of Ascension in Coaldale, where Phillips ministers. Those who would like to contribute money can make cheques payable to Church of the Ascension and indicate “Syrian Refugee Appeal” on the memo line. Donations of $20 or more will receive a tax receipt. Electronic transfers can be arranged by emailing Phillips at

“One of the best things about this initiative has been the creation of community on campus. The committee has people from every Faculty and staff from a wide range of fields. The students have come together and, in a world where many bad things happen, this effort helps everyone feel good about making a positive difference in these people’s lives,” says Dymond.