Refugee Families get Kingston shopping experience 

The Kingston Wing - The KEYS Job Centre is giving Syrian refugees new to Kingston a shopping experience.

KEYS Kingston is one of 31 centres across Canada that are taking part in the Canadian government’s Refugee Assistance Program and it has so far welcomed 24 Syrian families and one family from Burundi with more to come.

Nationally over the past year, approximately 35,000 Syrian refugees have arrived with the government program, with private programs bringing the total to more than 50,000 new refugees to Canada.

For the past few months, about a dozen KEYS volunteers, led by Emma Jackson, have solicited donations of other necessary household items such as pots, pans, plates, cutlery, coffee cups, glasses, linens and small appliances including toasters, coffee makers and blenders.

By appointment, the families can go there and “shop” for their needed items. They can choose the items they need but do not have to go through the final phase of shopping: paying for the items. They’re free, Jackson said.

“We’re calling it shopping because we’re trying to keep some dignity about the process and [families] being able to approve of they want instead of us just guessing and showing up with some items that might not be appropriate.”

“This whole place is run on volunteer power,” Jackson said.