A pair of Plate Cove West inn owners are hoping to bring Syrian refugees to Newfoundland's Bonavista Peninsula with the help of some creative fundraising.
Karen and her husband, Chris, are the owners of Round Da Bay Inn, and have hosted a number of events, including Eid celebrations, for Syrian friends in Gander.
One day, they received an email from a Syrian refugee who said she found the events through Facebook, and asked if the Ricketts would be able to help her find a sponsor.
After confirming with the Association for New Canadians that the email was real, the Ricketts decided to sponsor the woman and her family themselves.
"It just all went so smoothly from there," said Karen, in an interview with CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning.
They put up about $13,000 of their own savings for the first family to make the move to Plate Cove West. Now, they're fundraising to help more families come to the Bonavista Peninsula, something they hope will help bring new life to the region.
Syrian food fundraiser
Over the past few years, the Ricketts have become close friends with Talal Ibrahim and Samah Motlaq, a Syrian couple living in Gander.
Motlaq's two sisters are living in refugee camps. She wants to bring them to Canada, but between her customer service job, her husband's wages and having to care for two young children, she doesn't have the financial means.
"The job standing that she's gotta have here to qualify to sponsor families, it's astronomical. Like it's beyond anything that, without a really high education, the average Joe could accomplish," explained Chris Ricketts.
Now the Ricketts plan to help Motlaq's sisters too.
The Ricketts, along with Ibrahim and Motloq, are hosting a Syrian food fundraiser at the inn.
Ibrahim said the fundraiser is not just about helping his in-laws but about giving back to others in circumstances he knows well. Ibrahim, who will soon receive his Canadian citizenship, said he remembers how he felt when he arrived in Gander as a Syrian refugee.
"I saw people waiting for me, you know, and receiving me. I had this feeling [of] someone waiting for you," he said. "For me, it's very important because I had this experience."
Ibrahim said he's eternally grateful for what Chris and Karen are doing.
"Chris and Karen, they are amazing people," he said.
A little help from Hot Wheels
In addition to the Syrian feast night, Chris has offered to sell his collection of toy cars — and it isn't just any collection.
Chris said he began collecting dinkies when he was a child, and then "it just spiralled."
He now has thousands of toy cars, mostly Hot Wheels, some on display and some in boxes.
Many of the cars in his collection are from the '60s, '70s and '80s. There's an old Batmobile, antique cars and vintage toy carriers.
"Some of the older stuff is a lot harder to find and more rare," he said.
He's decided to donate them to a good cause.
"It gives a purpose to it," he said. "At the end of the day, what do you do with all this stuff you collect?"
Chris and Karen said they wanted to do something worthwhile in the world. They now have a list of eight Syrian families whom they want to help settle on the Bonavista Peninsula.
"We do have lots of room here," Karen said. "The whole peninsula has lots of room. And we see a real future for this here and we see several families settling here happily."