Nod of honour for local refugee advocate

Barb Ryeburn, a founder of East Kootenay Friends of Burma, is nominated for the national Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism

Eritrean refugee Adam Salim Idris (second from left) arrives at a snowy Cranbrook airport in Feb. 2011. Pictured

Eritrean refugee Adam Salim Idris (second from left) arrives at a snowy Cranbrook airport in Feb. 2011. Pictured

A dedicated Cranbrook volunteer has been nominated for a prestigious national award.

Barb Ryeburn, a founding member for East Kootenay Friends of Burma, has been nominated for the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism.

“It’s quite an honour,” said Ryeburn. “I don’t think it’s just for me, I think it’s for everyone.

“Ever since I’ve lived here I’ve been blown away by how many people want to get involved.”

The nomination was put forward by Ryeburn’s partners in Friends of Burma, which works to sponsor refugees from the world’s most troubled locations to escape to Canada.

“She volunteers thousands of hours every year to settle refugees into the community,” said Friends of Burma’s Shauna Jiminez. “She has taken refugees into her home, she has spent thousands of volunteer hours referring them to services, taking them to services, advocating for services, and putting those services in place. It often involves hours of paperwork, hours on the phone, hours of driving, all out of her own expense money and all as a volunteer.”

Since starting Friends of Burma in 1997, Ryeburn has helped close to 40 refugees come to Canada. Some have lived with Ryeburn, her husband Kim Eaton, and three children Maya, 22, Lukas, 19, and Simon, 17.

“My kids grew up with people from Ghana and India and Indonesia. I thought that was a great experience for them,” said Ryeburn.

As well as her work with Friends of Burma, Ryeburn was the local coordinator for Canadian Crossroads International from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. In that role, Ryeburn helps East Kootenay residents prepare for volunteer placements in Ghana, Nepal, Indonesia and the Ivory Coast. She arranged visits to Canada for participants from India, Indonesia, Ghana and Suriname.

As well as working as a student services teacher at TM Roberts Ecole, Barb volunteers between 10 and 20 hours a week for Friends of Burma.

“There’s always something, all the little things. It all does add up,” said Ryeburn.

Sometimes the workload becomes a lot to handle, but the friendships she has formed with the refugees she has sponsored makes it all worthwhile.

“Sometimes I’m stressed out and I’ll go up to Kimberley and be with the family with a little baby. I wouldn’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing. They are lovely people and they add so much to our lives,” said Ryeburn.

She also advocates constantly to change people’s perceptions about refugees.

“You don’t have a real idea until you meet someone who’s a refugee,” said Ryeburn.

“So many people say, oh, those refugees are taking our jobs, or they are terrorists, or we have to be careful because they are being smuggled in on boats.

“But every time you set up a new volunteer and they get to know these people and develop friendships, you see the community’s attitude changing as more and more people hear the stories.”

It’s important to realize that refugees are fleeing life-threatening situations. Welcoming them to Canada is sometimes saving their lives, according to Ryeburn.

“We are privileged as Canadians. We do have to battle for things, but we have so many opportunities. When we can try and make that available for people who are in such dire conditions, I can’t think of why you wouldn’t want to do that.”

The Paul Yuzyk Award acknowledges individuals across Canada who have made exceptional contributions to the integration of newcomers.

It includes a $20,000 grant to be given to an eligible, registered not-for-profit Canadian organization of the recipient’s choice.

Ryeburn said if she were to win the award, she will pledge the grant to Friends of Burma to sponsor more refugees.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Most Read