The Syrian Refugee Crisis:  How Can We Help?
Held at the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, UCC November 7, 2015  3-5 p.m.

This meeting was initiated by Acadia Friends Meeting (Quakers).  It was sponsored by 19 religious, library, civic and other organizations in the Mt. Desert Island, Ellsworth and Bangor area.  This was an educational event with the goal of raising funds for the basic needs of millions of Syrian individuals and families in refugee camps in the Middle East and fleeing to Europe.

The event was attended by about 100 people.  $3970 was collected and distributed to four organizations as contributors directed—primarily USA for UNHCR, and also International Rescue Committee, Doctors Without Borders, and Catholic Charities of Maine Refugee and Immigration Services (RIS).  Additional contributions are encouraged, see addresses at end of this report.**

   Gray Cox of the Acadia Friends Meeting was the MC.  Kathe and Al Simons of the Bar Harbor Congregational Church, UCC provided much technical and other support.

   Moni Ayoub, a College of the Atlantic student from Lebanon spoke of her calling to work with children of Syrian refugees in her village.  She and some friends worked mostly with children directing art and music activities and giving English and Arabic lessons on a daily  basis.
   Heath Cabot, anthropologist on the faculty of the College of the Atlantic told of her first hand experience of very young male refugees arriving in Greece alone with nothing.  They were often fleeing violent situations at home and were placed in detention.

   Aneesa Khan and Jenna Farineau, COA students from the Earth in Brackets organization spoke about drought in the region caused by climate change that contributed to the flight of Syrians to Europe.

   Hannah DeAngelis, assistant program director of the Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services, located in Portland, Maine, spoke of the complex process of receiving refugees, refugee status v. asylum status, and the social services necessary to welcome and incorporate them in their communities.  They are the one program in Maine designated by the U.S. State Department to resettle refugees here.  Currently they have most of their work concentrated in Portland, Lewiston, and Augusta where they provide educational, housing, medical and other services to about 600 individuals who are primarily Somali and Iraqi refugees.  Due to the long time taken by the U.S. Government to clear refugees for resettlement because of security requirements, Catholic Charities Refugee and Immigration Services does not expect to have any Syrian refugees to resettle for at least a year, and then they would do so only within 100 miles of Portland because of the need to provide many services through their case managers.

   Ed Snyder gave information about organizations that provide services for Syrian refugees and their need for contributions.  He also talked about an exchange of communications between Sen. Angus King and Acadia Friends Meeting.  He noted the bipartisan Graham-Leahy bill, S.2145, whose sponsors include Senator King, that would authorize a $1 billion increase in funds for refugees.  He suggested we should call or email Sen. Susan Collins urging her to also cosponsor S.2145.

Talks were interspersed with music by the Blueberry Jammers and original lyrics by Gray Cox about the universality of refugees in our own history.

Additional information was available at the meeting about the organizations working with Syrian refugees and legislative information affecting them.

This is the list of sponsors:  
--Acadia Friends (Quakers) Meeting
--Bar Harbor Congregational Church, UCC
--Maine Seacoast Mission
--St Saviour's Episcopal Church, Bar Harbor
--Parish of St. Andrew and St. John (Episcopalian) Southwest Harbor
--Tremont Congregational Church
--Somesville Union Meeting House, UCC
--Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Bar Harbor
--Peace and Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ellsworth
--All Souls Congregational Church, Bangor
--YWCA, Bar Harbor
--Southwest Harbor Library
--Jesup Memorial Library, Bar Harbor
--Northeast Harbor Library
--Earth in Brackets (student group at College of the Atlantic)
--PICA (Power in Community Alliances, Bangor)
--Bar Harbor Savings and Loan Association
--Charles Hendricks, MD.

**  USA for UNHCR, 1775 K Street NW, Suite 580, Washington, DC  20006
International Rescue Committee, 122 East 42nd Street, New York, NY  10168-1289
Doctors Without Borders, 333 Seventh Ave. 2nd Floor, New York, NY  10001-5004
Catholic Charities Refugee & Immigration Services, 80 Sherman Street,Portland, ME 04101

For more information contact Ed Snyder at 207-288-8968 or