Scrabblers met at First United Church in Kelowna and together they raised thousands of dollars for refugees in the Okanagan Valley.

Photo by Rob Hitchman (Flickr)
Photo by Rob Hitchman (Flickr)

The Central Okanagan Refugee Committee held a Scrabble tournament at First United Church March 8 to raise money for refugees settling in the Okanagan, and the turnout vastly exceeded expectations. In total, participants raised over $17,000—five thousand more than the goal set months prior.

According to Jodine Ducs, a volunteer with CORC, the money raised will go toward family reunifications and settlements, including two LGBTQ men from Syria, one of whom is currently in the process of transferring to an engineering program at UBCO from Abu Dhabi University in the United Arab Emirates.

“[He] just got his status changed today for decision made. So, we’re assuming it’s a positive decision, because his interview went well and his medical should have gone well. So, now he just has to wait for the official contact and then he’s just waiting for his travel date,” says Ducs. “Hopefully in September he can start as a student here.”

Award-winning Canadian author Sharon Bala was among the crowd Friday, both to give a reading and to play Scrabble with the tournament participants. To encourage people to fundraise in their communities, CORC offered free signed copies of Bala’s novel The Boat People to anybody who collected $250 or more.

“I ordered thirty books,” Ducs says, “and we had to give away all thirty.”

Two people even competed to see how much money they could raise, and in the end, both collected over $2,000 each.

“The one thing I was most pleased about was, you know, we hear about this populist wave that’s going around and people are less open to refugees,” Ducs says, “so it was really nice to have that affirmation that this is still important to Canadians.”