Local singer Nelly Furtado is one of three artists performing at Phoenix: Syrian Refugee Fundraising Concert on July 25.

Nelly Furtado headlines concert for Syrian refugees

Her name is Aisha and she teaches children about the differences between people in the world.

Her name is Aisha and she teaches children about the differences between people in the world.

Aisha, who is a young Muslim, explains to children why she has flatbread in her lunch and why she wears a hijab.

However, Aisha is not a real person, but a puppet and is part of the Get it, Got it program, a joint initiative between the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS), the Native Friendship Centre, and the Headway Victoria Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Centre.

Aisha, along with a puppet with fetal alcohol syndrome, a puppet with epilepsy and a puppet with a brain injury, and their puppeteers would go to elementary schools around Victoria to help educate children about why people are different.

Initially students just wanted to see the puppets, but that slowly began to change throughout the show.

“When they (kids) started figuring out the puppets were talking about their experiences, it became a lot easier for students to go up and ask the puppet questions,” said David Lau, executive director of VIRCS.

“The kids would just talk to the puppet, the puppeteer doesn’t exist anymore. Anything they would feel awkward or uncomfortable asking an actual person, puppets never get hurt feelings.”

The pilot program initially got off the ground a year ago with the help of a grant from the Victoria Foundation. However, since then, the organizations have been unable to fund the program and were forced to halt it temporarily.

Now, VIRCS is trying to relaunch the program, especially with the influx of new Syrian refugee children coming to the Island. The society hopes the program will educate students and make it easier for refugee children to make friends.

To help raise funds for the Get It, Got It program and other initiatives, the society is hosting a fundraising concert this month.

Phoenix: Syrian Refugee Fundraising Concert will feature Canadian band 54-40 singer Neil Osborne doing an acoustic set, Canadian-Cuban singer-songwriter Alex Cuba, and will be headlined by local singer Nelly Furtado.

Cuba and Furtado will be accompanied by the Victoria Symphony as well.

Funds raised will go towards the society’s emergency refugee fund to help assist refugees and newcomers during difficult times. People often come to the society for diapers for their baby, require emergency dental work or need hotel rooms  — many of which the society doesn’t have supports for.

Another area in need of funding is counsellors. In the fall, the society trained an additional 27 people in trauma counselling for refugees, many of whom are currently not being paid.

Part of the money will also go towards the private sponsorship of another Syrian refugee family.

The concert will take place at the Royal Theatre on Monday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets start at $65 and can be purchased rmts.bc.ca.