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Our Community: Sponsoring Syrian refugees, naked bungy jump for mental health

A Cowichan Valley group is looking for financial help to sponsor a Syrian refugee family, while WildPlay Element Parks of Nanaimo hosts the Naked Bungy Jump for Mental Health.
Batoul Ali holds a facsimile of a cheque presented to the Nowruz group by the Kitchen Sisters (represented by Dorothy Leavitt and Lorna Pierce). The cheque represents the proceeds of a beer and burger fundraiser last year. From left, Sandy Pewarchuk, Nancy Buan, Yusif Ali, Patty Watson, Paul Watson, Lee Smith, Leavitt and Pierce. In front: Batoul Ali and Pat Smith. ROSS PIERCE

A 'new day' for Syrian refugee families

A private Syrian refugee family reunification group in the Cowichan Valley has received a cheque for $5,500 toward helping a refugee family resettle in Canada under the private refugee sponsorship program.

The money was donated by the Kitchen Sisters, a group of Cowichan-area women who love to cook and organize fundraising events for various groups. They raised the funds through a burger and beer night with an accompanying silent auction at the Cobblestone Pub in Cobble Hill last September.

The sponsorship group, called Nowruz, which means “new day”’ in Kurdish, ensures refugee ­families are set up for success upon arrival and during the ­resettlement process. The Cowichan Intercultural ­Society serves as the government-sanctioned ­sponsorship ­agreement holder, responsible for working with private ­sponsorship groups.

Nowruz has already successfully sponsored one ­family. Yusif Ali, his wife Batoul and their daughter arrived in Duncan three years ago after spending time at a refugee camp. Today, Yusif and Batoul are employed, have welcomed a second child and have seen their eldest daughter thrive in school.

The group is now organizing to sponsor Batoul’s brother, Abdul, his wife Nofa and their two children.

Nowruz is tasked with raising approximately $50,000, which represents two-thirds of a year’s living expenses for the family, before their arrival.

Anyone interested in helping can join the sponsorship group (email [email protected]) or donate through the Cowichan Intercultural Society. Go to ­ and in the “fund” drop-down box, select Private Sponsorship Group, Nowruz Group. A tax receipt will be given for donations of $20 or more.

Naked bungee jump boosts mental-health programs

Step outside your comfort zone and raise money for mental-health programs at the Naked Bungy Jump for Mental Health on Sunday at WildPlay Element Parks of Nanaimo.

This is the 17th year of the event, with all ­registration funds, donations and pledges going directly to Mental Health Recovery Partners, which provides programs for people living with mental illness on V­ancouver Island.

“We are excited to be hosting the Naked Bungy Event for the 17th year and working with Mental Health Recovery Partners to break down the stigma around mental illness,” said Tom Benson, WildPlay CEO.

“WildPlay’s goal is to promote self-confidence by providing opportunities to step outside of your comfort zone and dissolve self-perceived barriers, which is why we find this to be such a suitable occasion. This is a great event that allows us to have fun while bringing awareness to an important cause and create positive change.”

Spectators, who must be 18 or older, are welcome to cheer on the participants with a minimum $15 donation. All donations will be matched by anonymous donor.

Last year, the event raised more than $100,000.

The event is limited to participants aged 18 and over. Pre-registration is required — a $55 deposit will be charged upon registration, although the fee will be refunded for participants who raise $200 or more.

• For more information, or to book, go to or call 1-855-595-2251.

Applications sought for community wellness grants

Applications are now being accepted for up to $800,000 in Community Wellness Grants from Island Health.

The focus is community resilience, ­including ­connected, diverse, safe, active and nourished ­communities. A total of up to $600,000 is available for individual/small grant funding, with the ­remaining $200,000 allocated for projects that are multi-­jurisdictional/multi-agency and involve a minimum of three partner organizations.

Individual grants will be up to $12,000 each, while partnership grants are up to $50,000 each.

“I’m so pleased we are able to offer the Community Wellness Grant program again this year,” said Kathy MacNeil, Island Health’s president and CEO.

MacNeil said it’s estimated that only 25 per cent of a person’s health is a result of the delivery of health care. The rest comes from external factors – the social ­determinants of health. “These grants will help o­rganizations support various regional wellness ­initiatives and bolster people’s health and well being in their communities.”

This is the sixth year of the initiative, an ­opportunity for not-for-profit organizations, local government organizations and Indigenous Nations, organizations and communities to apply for the development of new initiatives and programs.

Last year’s successful programs included an ­immersion course run by the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation for people to learn an endangered Indigenous language; an inter-generational connections project in the Comox Valley; a cooking and skill-building program for expecting families and parents of young children in Nanaimo; and a visual arts-based autobiographical ­storytelling and community building group for ­newcomer women in Victoria.

• For more information, or to apply, go to ­

Victoria to build leaders with Local Champions program

The City of Victoria is accepting applications from ­residents of the city for its Local Champions ­community-based leadership-development program.

The city’s Neighbourhood Team has partnered with Building Resilient Neighbourhoods to deliver a six-part training series that runs from April to September.

The sessions will focus on building practical skills, confidence and relationships so participants can act as project leaders. Participants will gain on-the-ground experience in community organizing and facilitation.

The program fee is $200. There are a limited number of full scholarships available, as well as childcare and transportation subsidies. The program consists of six sessions starting April 1.

Residents of Victoria can apply for one of 24 seats in the program. The deadline for applications is March 20.

• For more information, go to ­

Alzheimer Society of B.C. hosts talks Tuesday at Empress

Hear inspiring talks from the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s applied health researcher and community ­members with a personal connection to the disease at the Breakfast to Remember fundraiser at the Fairmont Empress on Tuesday.

The event raises critical funds to support the ­society’s programs, services and dementia research.

Presenters include Dr. Heather Cooke — a health researcher from the Alzheimer Society of B.C. — and community members Jeff Burns and Jean Collins.

Tickets are $125. The event runs 7 to 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 7 at the Fairmont Empress, 721 Government St.

• For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit

Peninsula Co-op helps hospital equipment drive

Peninsula Co-op has boosted the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s community fundraising campaign’s third and final phase with a matching gift of $100,000.

Gifts donated by March 31 will be matched up to a total of $100,000.

The Emerge Stronger campaign aims to fund ­200-plus pieces of medical equipment at Royal Jubilee, Victoria General and Gorge Road hospitals.

The campaign has already raised more than $7 million of its $10-million goal.

“Matching campaigns not only raise more money for the cause, but also allow those who are giving to feel that much more connected to their donation,” said ­Lindsay Gaudette, director of marketing and ­community relations for Peninsula Co-op.

“Gifts to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation not only support critical care for those in our community, ­but also show the hospital care teams how much the ­community appreciates them.”

One of the pieces of equipment the foundation is ­raising money for is a new $2.1-million Automated Chemistry Line for Royal Jubilee Hospital, which will be able to perform 1,200 tests every hour.

• For more information, or to make a contribution, go to or call 250-519-1750.

[email protected]