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New Canaan Mom Spearheads Effort To Help Settle A Syrian Refugee Family

Juli Kurtzman is spearheading an effort to help bring a Syrian refugee family into New Canaan.
Juli Kurtzman is spearheading an effort to help bring a Syrian refugee family into New Canaan. Photo Credit: Ronna Kovner Photography

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- It's a go for New Canaan mom Juli Kurtzman, who has just received the green light of approval to go ahead with her plan to resettle a Syrian refugee family in New Canaan.

Kurtzman got the idea to help a family three months ago when she read about the issue on her NPR newsfeed on her cellphone.

“My heart is bleeding for the Syrians. I'm an avid news reader, and it has become too painful to even read about their plight," she said. "I feel for them in regard to the complete demolition of their country as well as the journey they had to make to get to safety. I felt so helpless and wanted to do something."

She approached the New Canaan Mom’s Club, of which she is a member, and 100 members immediately agreed to jump on board with her.

She also founded New Canaan Welcomes , a group to help spread the word about the refugee family.

Kurtzman is partnering with IRIS, a refugee resettlement agency in New Haven, which is helping to train volunteers to help acclimate the family once they arrive.

Through a GoFundMe page that Kurtzman has created, nearly $12,000 of a goal of $15,000 has been raised to help the family. About 60 people have donated to the cause there.

St. Mark's Episcopal Church in New Canaan is processing donations for the family.

"I am absolutely thrilled and amazed by the level of support and interest in our town and even across the country to help this family," said Kurtzman, who is a freelance writer and has four children with her husband, Ken.

Now comes the hard part — the wait, said Kurtzman, who is anxious to learn about the family.

"IRIS will contact me as soon as they have been given a family they think is suitable for us," she said, adding that she hopes the family can settle in New Canaan.

The family will need help with housing and health care, education and ESL, driving and public transportation, interpreting services and employment, clothing and furnishings and finance and family budgeting.

According to Bryan D. Luizzi, Superintendent of New Canaan Public Schools, the 2017-2018 Board of Education budget is requesting an ESL teacher.  This can be a great help to the family.

Once Kurtzman receives word as to when the family will arrive, Kurtzman and those helping her will have two or three weeks' time to work out the logistics.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, at 3 p.m., there will be a brief talk at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 111 Oenoke Ridge Road, about volunteer opportunities to help the refugee family once they arrive.

To contribute to the GoFundMe page, click here . For more information or to get involved in helping the family, click here .  For more information on the New Canaan Welcomes group, click here .

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