By Mischa Milne, Communications Coordinator
Like many Canadians, Laurie Cooper was inspired to get involved with refugee advocacy after seeing the tragic image of the little boy, Alan Kurdi, on the beach in Turkey in September of 2015.
“Like millions around the world, I was heartbroken to see the picture and then I realized that his aunt lived in the Vancouver area, not far from me. Somehow that made me feel that the refugee crisis was right next door. It could happen to anyone,” says Laurie.
That initial heartbreak led to action.
She travelled to Greece four times over the course of the next few years in order to volunteer in refugee camps, where she helped welcome those making their way to safety in Europe. In 2016, she began privately sponsoring individuals and families to come to Canada.
This dedication to refugee sponsorship makes Laurie incredibly deserving of MOSAIC’s Human Rights Award, which is presented to an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to the field of human rights.
Since 2015, Laurie has supported a number of refugees, including Hassan Al Kontar – the “man at the airport” – a Syrian refugee who spent months stranded in Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2018.
Laurie raised money to privately sponsor Al Kontar as a refugee, and lined up housing for him at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, like she has done for many other refugees.
For Hassan, there is no one more deserving of the MOSAIC Human Rights Award than Laurie.
“Whenever you ask people to define and describe hope, they will say it’s the light at the end of the dark tunnel, something they can’t directly touch or feel how warm it is, they can’t draw a photo of what hope looks like! For me it’s a different story; for me hope has a human face — Laurie Cooper’s face.”
In August 2019 Laurie was instrumental in starting the Operation #NotForgotten (ONF) Project in partnership with MOSAIC. ONF aims to provide safe resettlement for hundreds of refugees who have been detained in Papua New Guinea and on Nauru Island since 2013, as part of Australia’s indefinite offshore Immigration detention policy.
Laurie then stepped back from the Project and MOSAIC took the lead, working to resettle these refugees through Canada’s private sponsorship program. So far, enough funds have been raised to sponsor more than 200 individuals.
“The first time I met Laurie, I became very impressed with her dedication, unwavering enthusiasm and passion for the sponsorship of refugees who were in dire need of protection,” says Saleem Spindari, Senior Manager of Refugees and Migrant Worker Programs at MOSAIC who nominated Laurie for the award and works closely with her.
Moving forward, Laurie looks forward to continuing her efforts to find ways for qualified refugees to come to Canada, helping to meet the needs of Canadian employers, while giving newcomers a strong start in their new home.
“I am very grateful to MOSAIC for the recognition, but it is only possible because of the hard work of so many people who have helped and supported me over the past five years.”
We invite you to join us virtually on Thursday, October 22 to celebrate Laurie and other deserving recipients at the 2020 MOSAIC Awards Ceremony – get your free ticket here