Rock band Kill Matilda call themselves zombie hunters in their official bio, but the high-spirited dance punks are taking on a much more life-saving and life-affirming pursuit — helping sponsor a gay Syrian refugee's efforts to come to Canada.
When someone purchases their new album Songs Of Survival between now and Dec. 27 on their Bandcamp page (pay what you want), the band will donate 50 percent of the profits towards the fundraising efforts for Sayf, a queer single Syrian male who's currently living in an Istanbul, Turkey refugee camp. The tight December deadline is because the Canadian government is matching any fundraising efforts made by private citizens up until the end of the year.
The band are part of a "circle of hope" fundraising group that's trying to raise $20,000 for Sayf with the helpful guidance of Rainbow Refugees Canada, a Vancouver-based community group that supports and advocates with people seeking refugee protection because of persecution based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.
Samaritanmag spoke with Kill Matilda lead singer Dusty Exner to find out more.
What are you doing to help sponsor a Syrian refugee?
What we're doing basically is donating 50 percent of the proceeds of our online sales specifically from Bandcamp to help some of our friends who are sponsoring a Syrian refugee.
The idea was to allow people to pay what they wanted. If they wanted to pay two bucks, cool, if they wanted really help and give $100, cool. Our friends are sponsoring a refugee through a program called Rainbow Refugees which helps LGBTQ refugees come to Canada and provides them with whatever kind of support they need.
We're a touring band of musicians, so there's not much for us to donate even if we wanted to, so it's not like this is a huge gesture, we're not making this $20,000 ourselves, but I definitely wouldn't want to let this opportunity pass without doing something.
Who is the refugee you're helping sponsor?
A fellow named Sayd who's currently in Istanbul, Turkey. He wants to come to Canada. He's got a marketing degree and he works in marketing. The rest of his family is in Saudi Arabia, but he can't go there because it's illegal to be gay in Saudi Arabia. His family is also trying to force him into an arranged marriage with a woman, so he's fleeing persecution for his sexuality on top of the fact that he's a Syrian refugee.
Our friends in the circle of hope told me they had spoken to him via Skype not that long ago and he's really excited to get to Canada and really anxious to get out of the refugee camp that he's in in Turkey. He's a guy who's got skills; he's going to contribute positively to the fabric of Canada. It's nice as well that people are stepping up to do private sponsorships like this because the government is bringing in lots of families and women, but not the single men because there's that stigma of terrorism and danger with men — which is unfortunate — so it's nice that private sponsorships can fill that gap. We don't know that much more about him, just that he really wants to come to Canada.
What is Rainbow Refugee Canada?
It's an organization that supports LGBTQ refugees, and it does that in a number of ways by providing resources like helping people in other countries learn about it would take to come to Canada. Basically it's fighting for the rights of refugees who are queer because they are often facing more persecution in their own countries. And not just LGBTQ refugees, but also people who are HIV positive and who are living in countries where they'll be persecuted for having HIV positive status. So really it's just a pipeline to help refugees who have any kind of persecution for their sexual identity
The circle of hope for Sayf is trying to raise $20,000. Why specifically that amount of money?
So far they've raised about $15,000 of the $20,000 goal so we're getting really close. They need to raise $12,000 for the refugee to come to Canada. Those are the costs to cover the refugee coming here. So they set the goal at $20,000 because the other $8,000 is what they want to raise to just help provide them with a bit of start up money. It's not like $8,000 is a lot of money but it's enough to get a bed and a couch and pay a couple months rent.
Why do this?
When we found out our friends were fundraising that gave us a really great opportunity to get involved because the Syrian refugee crisis is something I've been personally aware of for awhile. I've done fundraising for a lot of organizations that work internationally — international humanitarian aid organizations — so I've had some experience in my professional life trying to get people to care about this issue. Once it was happening I was trying to get people to care about it, I was trying to get people to understand it was important and epic and it was going to be a huge, huge issue and it wasn't going to be this small thing.
Now four years later we've got the largest number of refugees ever on the planet. Worldwide there are more than 50 million refugees, and Syrian refugees make up somewhere between six to 10 million. It started off with 100,000, then 200,000, then 500,000, then a million, when they started fleeing Syria it was crazy. The conflict and the crisis ramped up so fast. And still nobody really cared. The UN was calling for funds and they consistently falling short every time. And I can tell you from the front lines that it was super-hard to get people to care.
Unfortunately it takes until now when it's like already too late for a lot of people when people actually care. The good news is we're helping people now, but there were a lot of people who could have used this help four years ago and a lot of people who probably didn't make it. But it's super-exciting now that (current Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau's in power and he wants to bring in these refugees, it's like Canada was waiting for someone to step up and suddenly everyone's on board and super into it. That doesn't happen under (former Prime Minister Stephen) Harper because Harper was like "Oh, no." Everyone's on board now and that's really really exciting. After having fought so hard for so long to get people to care, it's definitely nice to have the opportunity to do something more than just talk to people about it.
Watch a video message from Kill Matilda:
Help Us Sponsor a Syrian Refugee!
Hello all!We are excited to announce that from now until December 27th, you will be able to pay what you want for our new album 'Songs of Survival' on Bandcamp, with 50% of the proceeds going to help sponsor Sayf to come to Canada. Sayf is a queer Syrian man who is not only feeling war and violence, but also persecution for his sexual orientation. Read more about it on Dusty's blog https://trailerparkdusty.wordpress.com/Buy the album on Bandcamphttps://killmatilda.bandcamp.com/Posted by Kill Matilda on Wednesday, December 2, 2015