In years past, international news would arrive in a small village like Hubbards, Nova Scotia in a measured, orderly way: the daily paper, the nightly broadcast, the weekly newsreel. Older people in our community remember sharing news with each other as it came, but the most important news was local - condolences, celebrations, or the need for a helping hand.
Today, even in a small community, we receive our information from multiple, disparate channels, with each person tuning into their own individual frequency based on personal interests, politics, and social circle. We might still know our neighbours better than those who live in a bigger city, but we are rarely called upon any more to help bring the hay in or to rebuild a home lost to fire. We're busy; sometimes we even forget to look up and engage with the people closest to us. It's rare for one story to rise up and cut through the constant, terrible rumble of bad news from all over.
But the picture of Alan Kurdi, resting on the beach as if asleep, had a different power. For some reason, that day was different. In hundreds and thousands of individual newsfeeds, people said to themselves, "This is enough." Neighbours everywhere turned to each other and asked, "did you see this?" and "my heart is breaking" and " we have to do something." It was a moment I will never forget, and which stays with me as The Bay Refugee Project takes shape. Our community made a mutual and collective resolution to help alleviate the suffering of those faraway families, instead of scrolling past to the next bit of news.
As we start the (probably long, definitely complicated) process of sponsoring refugee families for resettlement in our area, I am noticing how our own community still comes together in a very traditional way for the things that are important - gathering in a church basement to hear the news, offering donations and help in the parking lot of the grocery store, passing information at the school, library, and community centre. We now say to each other, "Imagine. Imagine what those people have been through. Imagine what it will be like when they come home to here."
We will probably have our struggles. Nova Scotians are famously hospitable but also famously wary when it comes to truly accepting someone "come from away". We will have a lot to learn about these newcomers. I read something recently that said it was too difficult to 'think globally, act locally' - instead, people should 'think locally, act neighbourly'. Coming from a small, tightly-knit community, I have some sympathy for this idea - sometimes the only positive change you can imagine in this complex world is the one you can make in your own neighbourhood. I hope The Bay Refugee Project brings together all three of those intentions. I hope we will show ourselves to be a community that wants to learn globally, think locally, and act neighbourly.
Emily King is the Chair of The Bay Refugee Project. Originally from Hubbards, Nova Scotia, Emily has worked for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development since 2001 and is currently on posting at the Atlantic regional office. She has returned to living in Hubbards with her husband and three children, and is very excited to contribute to the resettlement of refugees in her community. Views expressed herein are her own.