When Brenda Ibey learned about the plight of a 18-year-old Syrian refugee and a Peterborough couple’s efforts to bring him to Canada, she decided to step up and help — and she’s calling on others in the community to join her.
Ibey owns The Avant-Garden Shop in downtown Peterborough, a home and garden store that also specializes in birding supplies. Unlike many businesses, Ibey says her shop has done well during the pandemic, largely because of her loyal customers coupled with an increased interest in birding and gardening.
“The Avant-Garden Shop has done well during the pandemic with many customers intentionally buying and supporting local,” Ibey tells kawarthaNOW. “This has been so great to see and to feel the support of the birding and gardening community.”
While her business regularly donates to various fundraisers, Ibey says she has been trying to decide on what to donate to this year to show how thankful she is for her supportive community.
Then she learned about Rashid, an 18-year-old Syrian refugee currently living in Turkey who wants to come to Canada. Dave McNab, a retired police officer, recently connected with Rashid when the teenager was subjected to some hateful and racist comments after posting about his dream to come to Canada in a Facebook birding group.
Along with his wife, veterinarian Kristy Hiltz, McNab has begun the process of sponsoring Rashid to come to Canada. Part of the sponsorship process includes raising $18,000 in costs to support Rashid in Canada for a year.
After social advocate Michael VanDerHerberg, who is helping with the sponsorship process, offered $5,000 towards the cost, McNab and Hiltz contributed another $5,000 and have created a GoFundMe campaign to raise the remaining $8,000.
Rashid’s plight and the connection to birding has prompted Ibey to donate $1,000 to the cause — which is also close to her heart because her own family was sponsored to come to Canada in 1955. Ibey’s parents, in turn, sponsored another family to come to Canada.
Since Rashid’s call for help began on a birding Facebook group, Ibey is hoping members of the birding community will also step up and contribute towards the costs of supporting Rashid during his first year in Canada.
That’s already happened in the case of The Avant-Garden Shop’s bird seed and feeder supplier, Newmarket-based Wild Bird Trading. After learning about Rashid, the company’s president Mark Bennett and his wife Laura have offered to give him a job when he comes to Canada.
“When I got into business I never would have thought about how wonderful gardeners and birders are,” Ibey says. “They are so supportive — Kristy and Dave included.”
Along with her donation, Ibey says she will be contacting some of her customers and other businesses who may be willing to donate.
“We’ll do as much as possible to help Rashid,” Ibey says.
Those who wish to contribute to the campaign to help sponsor Rashid can donate at gofundme.com/f/help-bring-rashid-to-canada. For more information about The Avant-Garden Shop and to contact Ibey, visit www.avantgardenshop.com.