Marriage stones in Cape Clear, Ireland, erected 5,000 years ago. Photo supplied

Marriage stones in Cape Clear, Ireland, erected 5,000 years ago. Photo supplied

Comox Valley walkers raising money to bring Syrian family to Ireland

A Comox woman has initiated a sponsored event to help a group of walkers in Ireland who are raising money to bring a Syrian family to their tiny island.

Suzy Venuta made the connection in 2018 when she visited Cape Clear, located at the southernmost part of Ireland. Her friend Mary O’Driscoll asked Venuta if she and her hiking buddies would be interested in helping the virtual 5,000 Kilometres to Damascus fundraising challenge, being undertaken by Cape Clear residents.

The Cléire Community Sponsorship group needs to raise 10,000 euros (about $14,843 Canadian) to sponsor a family from Syria. They’ve so far raised about € 6,000.

Having surpassed the 5,000 km mark — the distance from Syria to Cape Clear — the Irish walkers have upped the challenge to hoof it a further 5,000 kms.

“Because of the amazing support, we are now on our journey back to Cape Clear, and we aim to be here for Easter Sunday,” O’Driscoll said by email.

Venuta formed a team, which O’Driscoll named the Canadian Capers, in reference to someone who has lived on the Cape and left. The Capers team consists of walkers in the Comox Valley, Alberta and Ontario, and one in Ireland. Members send weekly walking/running distances, which Venuta forwards to Ireland. To date, the Canadian Capers have raised 135 of a 500-euro target.

“While we don’t have any control over the pandemic, we can still help someone 7,000 kilometres away, and help a family start a new lease on life,” Venuta said.

Cape Clear became the first Irish island to be accepted as a destination for approved refugees under a United Nations program that gives permission to sponsor a family from war-torn Syria or Lebanon. Last year, O’Driscoll got the ball rolling by applying to the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP), established in 2015 as part of Ireland’s response to the migration crisis in central and southern Europe.

O’Driscoll hopes the family will arrive by September — but first they need to raise the € 10,000.

Venuta invites people to join The Canadian Capers, and send their weekly walking/running distance.

“We are all still connected, and it is by connection that we can help others,” she said.

Join the cause at bit.ly/3rhhtog. Tax receipts will be issued for those who wish to donate.

For more information about the virtual walk in Ireland, visit cuaisin.ie or find the Cléire Community Sponsorship Group on Facebook.

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