Image courtesy of domdeen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dora DiLullo is the co-chair of the Prairie Rose Refugee Project, a strategic collaboration between the Prairie Sky Cohousing Cooperative and Wild Rose United Church. Prairie Rose aims to sponsor a Syrian refugee family and help them build a new home in Calgary.

The decision to coordinate such a huge project would intimidate some. But for Dora the issue is one that is dear to her heart, rooting back to her early years in Canada.

Dora DiLullo was born in Italy, but moved to Canada when she was a child. Italy is a place that Dora loves, somewhere she understood and felt she belonged, but at a young age she left her home to start a new life in a foreign country.

Once in Canada, she experienced an uneasy process of transition. Teachers at school insisted that she speak English at home and not Italian so that she could learn the language faster. Her Italian identity was not recognized as part of being Canadian and it devalued her sense of self; she felt like a second-class citizen. Because of her Italian roots, her family was also the target of discrimination. When something went wrong in the neighborhood, her family was one of the first to be blamed. However, her experience has helped her to better appreciate the intricacies of belonging to a different culture while simultaneously being Canadian.

Dora states that the vision for the Prairie Rose project is to “welcome a Syrian family by providing assistance, guidance and support in order to enable them to become independent citizens”. The group seeks to help, nurture and guide the sponsored family, with a focus on meeting their needs and being sensitive to cultural differences. Prairie Rose has stated a firm intent to honour Syrian culture; this intent could take the form of something as small as ensuring that their pantry is stocked with familiar ingredients from home.

Ultimately, Dora hopes that Canada’s new Syrian citizens will be able to successfully integrate into their new home and contribute their unique experiences to the vibrant, multicultural identity that exists in Canada. Syria will be forever part of the family’s history and culture and Dora intends to preserve, respect and celebrate their Syrian identity. For Dora, our collective multi-cultural identity is essential to the fabric of being Canadian.

DiLullo Family Photo

DiLullo Family Photo

Prairie Rose is expected to welcome their family in the next couple of months. For more information please contact Prairie Rose at pswrrefugees@gmail.com

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