Use Your Aeroplan Miles To Help Syrian Refugees

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Those Aeroplan bonus miles you've been collecting can be used to help Syrian refugees try to build a new life.

Aeroplan has just announced that collectors of their loyalty miles program can donate those miles to Lifeline Syria, a Toronto-based organization whose goal is to welcome and support an expected 1,000 Syrian refugees who'll be resettling to the Greater Toronto Area in the next two years.

Update: as of Sept. 10, 1.7 million Aeroplan miles have been donated, Christa Poole, senior manager of external communications, tells Samaritanmag.

Civil war in Syria has left up to 12 million people homeless and living a life of difficult exile. Lifeline Syria has made it their goal to shepherd some of these refugees to the Toronto area much in the same way Canadians responded to the Indochinese refugee crisis — the "boat people" crisis — of 1979, when Canada welcomed more than 202,000 refugees from conflict-torn Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

Lifeline Syria will use the Aeroplan Miles towards travel, hotels, car rental, equipment and other infrastructure needed to support Syrians’ resettlement in Canada, according to a press release.

The organization has some high-profile supporters helping their cause. Ratna Omidvar, a Ryerson University professor, former Toronto Mayor John Sewell and Fareed Amin, former Ontario Deputy Minister are listed as part of the organization's steering committee. Filmmaker Atom Egoyan, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and writer Michael Ondaatje are just some of Lifeline Syria's "champions" listed on its website.

One of the things Lifeline Syria is asking the public to do is to help sponsor some of these refugees. The organization suggests groups pool together to share the financial burden of supporting these refugees in the short term. But also to help families acclimatize to Toronto in the following ways:

* Meet the family at the airport and escort them to accommodation
* Assist the family in finding housing and ensuring the costs for housing are covered;
* Make sure that the family’s needs are covered for clothing, furnishings, and food;
* Make the necessary health connections;
* Make sure the family is given a general orientation to the city and its transportation system;
* Make sure that, most likely with the assistance of settlement service organizations, children register in school and parents in English as a Second Language classes;
* Help to fill in the knowledge gaps that everyone experiences when they move to a new city or country.
* Help members of the family find appropriate training or employment.

Aeroplan Miles can also be used towards their "Beyond Miles" partnership with War Child Canada. War Child Canada works to ensure the safety of children in war-torn countries such as Syria as well as Sudan, Uganda, Jordan, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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