Next Monday is a holiday and we would like to invite you to an all-ages meet and greet drop-in for the Akil family from 2 to 4pm.
The event will be held at the Indoor Playground and party space at the Vineyard Church at 1129 Sackville Dr. Please park at the back of the building and use the door marked for this event. There is a large area for kids to play and adults to visit together.
We will be providing some light snacks and beverages, but please consider bringing some of your favourite leftover holiday treats to share.
The Akil family is a complete joy to be around. We are looking very forward to more people to know them. As a community we have much to offer them, but in the hours I have spent with them I have learned that they have much to offer us.
Khansaa has a suprizing amount of English, and Asil speaks very good french, but we will also try and have a translator available for the event.
It will be exciting to have the Refugees Belong Community together in one place.
See you all next Monday!
My apologies Refugees Belong community for not updating you sooner, it has been a busy weekend!
After 24 hours of travel the Akil family arrived in Halifax late Friday night. They had no idea what to expect upon landing and were overcome with emotion that there were people there to meet and welcome them.
Maria, age 2, slept though landing and our greeting, but woke up when we went outside to get to the parking garbage and the snow starting hitting her face! What a way to wake up in a new country and climate.
I want to start out by saying that having spent a number of hours with Safwan, Khanssa, Asil and Maria this weekend, that they are a completely wonderful family! I am overwhelmed by their courage, their drive to succeed and their incredible hospitality even as they are the ones in a strange place. It was a complete joy to get to be with them.
We learned that they managed to escape Syria four years ago, although most of their extended family is still trapped there. They have been living and working in Lebanon and have come to Canada in the hope for a future for their girls.
They have worked hard at learning English and we are able to communicate more than we anticipated. Getting them into language classes is still a top priority, and the sooner the better, because they are ready to fully embrace life in Canada!
I hope many of you will have the pleasure of meeting them soon. A community meet and greet is in the works for Monday, January 2, which is a holiday here in Nova Scotia. If anyone who is better at planning events than me, would like to jump in and help with that, or know a local business that would like to support the event, please contact me through email@example.com.
Thank you to everyone for making this dream a reality.
Thank you to all of you who are following along with Refugees Belong and our collective goal of sponsoring a Syrian refugee family to come to Canada.
We have news!
First, I will try to explain the complicated story of our long wait and explain why we will not be sponsoring the Al Abbass family that we were assigned in January of 2016.
When we first made contact with the Al Abbass family 11 months ago, their primary concern in regards to coming to Canada was that they be able to settle near their extended family who were also on waitlists to immigrate here. We contacted the Immigration on their behalf and made sure that the families were all linked together and would all come to Halifax. The Al Abbass family sponsored by Refugees Belong, and their brother and sister’s families would come as Government Assisted Refugees.
But, rarely does immigrating go according to plan! The Al Abbass family was held up in their approval process and their extended family was not. Through an oversight in the system that we do not understand, the sister’s family was sent to Edmonton. In order to fix this the Canadian government agreed to sponsor the Al Abbass family and settle them in Edmonton as well, asking Refugees Belong to take on the sponsorship of another family.
We quickly agreed and will now be bringing Safwan and Khansaa Akil to Halifax, along with their two daughters, Asil (7) and Marie (2).
This week we got a notice saying they will arrive between December 20, 2016 and January 20, 2017. It is really happening!!!
Their apartment, which we have had ready for the last 11 months has been subleased to cover the costs of keeping it and will be vacant again as of Dec 12. Perfect timing.
Aside from giving the apartment a clean, getting in fresh food and finding some girls’ clothing and a car seat, we feel very ready to welcome this family.
But as we have said all along. We cannot welcome this family alone. We want to welcome them to a community as a community. Stay tuned for a meet and greet where we will host an event for everyone to meet this new family. Also, please contact us if you would like to volunteer in any way in settling this family in their new home, community and country.
by Trisha Dempsey
I am thrilled to announce that our Support Syrian Newcomers With Learning English fundraising campaign, has surpassed its fundraising goal! Thanks to many generous donations, together we raised $4,127 - surpassing the goal of $3,500. Now, instead of the 100 dictionaries we were hoping to purchase with the funds, we will now be able to purchase about 130 copies of the English-Arabic Picture Dictionary. As you can see in the photo below... the books have begun to arrive!
Many, many thanks to the individuals who have donated to the campaign since it first launched at the end of January 2016. We could not have done this without you! Thanks also to Kind Krafts for choosing Refugees Belong as one of their fundraising recipients this past winter, and I want to give an huge thank you shout-out to Kristine and the wonderful people who collaborated with her to host the very successful fundraising dinner event on May 28th. This dinner event raised over $2000 - thus enabling us to finish the campaign!
52 dictionaries have already been delivered to the families. This would not have been possible without Abdurrahman, who has assisted with the deliveries and has been such a reliable and wonderful interpreter. This delivery effort was also made possible with the help of several other individuals and groups who are connected with some of the new families, and have assisted me with coordinating deliveries to them. The discount provided by Oxford University Press for the purchase of many of these dictionaries is much appreciated.
Finally, I am so grateful for the many Syrian families I have met who welcomed me into their homes for a cup of tea, and graciously corrected my humble attempts at speaking in Arabic. The dictionary deliveries have been a lot of fun and there are many more deliveries to do!
To find out more about why it is important to empower newcomers with access to English language learning materials and why I chose this particular resource, check out this earlier blog post and the fundraising site. You can also watch the campaign video below...
Have you been wondering about the Syrian refugee family that we are privately sponsoring? Well, us too! The Refugees Belong private sponsorship effort, along with many other private sponsorship efforts across the country, has unfortunately gotten caught in the processing slow-down that happened in March, after the Liberal government met their election promise of bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada by the end of February. After the advocacy and outcry from private sponsorship groups, in early May the government agreed to send more staff to the Middle East to try and speed up the process again, but timelines are still unclear.
We were given the family's phone number which has allowed us to pass on information (through WhatsApp) about Canada, to share pictures of the apartment, and to reassure them that we are still advocating on their behalf to bring them here soon. It is great to be in contact with them! We are hoping they arrive before the end of the summer, but in the meantime we are renting the apartment for short-term stays on Airbnb to prevent financial loss.
In other news however, the other refugee family that is being sponsored by one of the members of Refugees Belong (and supported in part, by Refugees Belong) - has arrived! This sponsorship application has been in process for 8 long years. The mother and daughter from Zimbabwe arrived in Halifax a few weeks ago on May 24th and they are settling into their new home. We are so happy that this wonderful family finally made it to Halifax after such a difficult and frustrating delay. Their arrival in Canada can be largely credited to the determination, persistence, and advocacy work, of one amazing Shawna Lucas.
Thank you to everyone who donated or helped to organize items for the big yard sale fundraiser, which was held a few weeks ago. These funds will go toward supporting the newly arrived mother and daughter from Zimbabwe.
Other updates: Refugees Belong is now officially registered as a not-for-profit society with Nova Scotia's Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and we are working on our next initiative - stay tuned!
by Trisha Dempsey
Quick update on our private sponsorship effort: We are still eagerly waiting to receive the official Notice of Arrival for the family we have been matched with! We are happy to report that we all feel quite prepared for them - as prepared as we will ever be! The apartment is thoroughly furnished and ready, thanks to the many generous donations we received for the family. Based on the experience of other groups, we are anticipating that the family will arrive in the next 30 days or so. It is possible that we will receive only a 48 hour notice of their arrival.
**The rest of this blog post will be about the language needs of Syrian newcomers to Canada (not just our sponsored family) and how we can support them with learning English.**
Have you ever relocated to a country where you could not speak the host country's language and English-speakers were scarce? Despite having traveled briefly to non-English speaking countries, I have never tried to establish myself elsewhere and create a more permanent home outside of Canada. However, I can certainly imagine how difficult this might be and how frustrated I would likely become with the language barrier. Many of us take for granted, the ability to communicate easily with each other through a shared language.
The significant lack of English or French language proficiency has been identified as a key challenge for Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. A recent government analysis reported that 67 % of government-assisted Syrian newcomers to Canada speak neither English or French (as referenced in The Globe & Mail, Feb. 03/16).
One of the first priorities for the Syrian newcomers, will be to learn English as quickly as possible.
Learning the English language is essential because in most cases, people need to communicate effectively in English to find employment, further their education, navigate community resources, and make new social connections.
In Surray, B.C., former Syrian refugee Ahmad Hindawi, told journalist Catherine Rolfsen (CBC News Jan. 7/16) that he had to wait 11-12 months until he was able to get into an English language course. "Through a translator, he said it was a 'very difficult time' during which he was 'waiting, waiting, waiting, very nervously and anxiously.' During that time, he says, he wasn't able to find paying work."
Chris Friesen , the director of settlement services with the Immigrant Services Society of B.C., tells Rolfsen: "They want to learn English... They want to give back, and they want to work and pay taxes and all those good things. But without the language acquisition piece, it's a detriment for them to reach their full potential."
In Burnaby, B.C., former Syrian refugee Yasin Alhomsi indicates that "improving his English is crucial for integrating into Canadian society. 'It's difficult for us to speak in English in the first days for us. To communicate with people, to make relationships with Canadian people,' he said. 'All companies, all owners ask ... first for English language.'" (Rolfsen, CBC News, Jan. 7/16)
When journalist Gerry Bellett asked Syrian refugee, Abdul Hafiz, what refugees need the most, "Hafiz said English instruction was — after housing and food — the most important" (The Vancouver Sun, Dec. 29/15). Hafiz is eager to learn English so he can find employment in his field.
Despite the eagerness of newcomers to find employment immediately after arrival, settlement agencies advise them to focus on investing the time into becoming proficient in English first.
Josie Ditzio, with COSTI Immigrant Services in Toronto, says: "History has shown us that with past waves of immigrants and refugees, if you don't acquire your language in the earlier time of arrival, then it's less likely you are to acquire it down the road" (Ron Charles, CBC News, Jan. 29/16).
Without English proficiency, newcomers are at higher risk for increased stress, anxiety, and depression. There is a significant correlation between prolonged limited official language proficiency and a reduction in the self-reported health of newcomers in Canada [¹⁻³]. Research has also demonstrated that the lack of English proficiency is a barrier to accessing appropriate healthcare services [⁴⁻⁵].
Without English proficiency, newcomers may feel isolated, stuck, and discouraged that they cannot move forward with their lives here.
Syrian newcomers are resilient, courageous, and innovative people! However, starting over in a new country can be very challenging and these families may need a bit of assistance getting started with building their new lives here and learning English - particularly the government-assisted refugees.
In contrast to the privately-sponsored refugees, the government-assisted refugees typically have access to less social and practical supports that would support them with learning English, making new social connections, and navigating community resources. Research has demonstrated that privately-sponsored refugees fare better in the job market than government-assisted refugees. Whereas the privately-sponsored refugees (such as the family we are sponsoring) have a large team of people involved in preparing for their arrival and supporting them throughout their first year, the government-assisted refugees do not necessarily have access to the same degree of consistent practical and social support. Therefore, this blog post and call to action is dedicated primarily to addressing some of the resettlement challenges of government-assisted refugees.
During my volunteer shifts with Syrian government-assisted refugees, I was aware that many had a low level of English proficiency. I was really concerned about how this might impact them, especially if they could not access English language supports immediately.
I did some research and found out that other people in Canada were concerned about this as well...
"For Michael Ballard, a picture dictionary can be worth a thousand words of welcome... With drawings depicting everyday scenes, the books can help newcomers navigate supermarket aisles, classrooms, and casual greetings. When the Trenton military base temporarily hosted hundreds of incoming Kosovar refugees in 1999, Ballard, who lived nearby, volunteered with the resettlement effort... he set about arming the newcomers with picture dictionaries to quickly bolster their English skills."
Encouraged by the success of this previous effort, Ballard is hoping the picture dictionaries will have the same impact on Syrian newcomers:
"Ballard hopes families will treasure the books, keeping them as resources to use as homework helpers at the kitchen table or to arm themselves for visits with doctors, lawyers, and potential new bosses. He has heard from Kosovar refugees that they treasured their copy as something to hold on to, which can be increasingly meaningful for people who have left everything behind, he added. 'To me it’s partly about giving them a sense of dignity and a resource,' he said" (Sarah-Joyce Battersby, Toronto Star, Jan. 04/16).
Inspired by these Canadians who are responding to this urgent need, several weeks ago I launched a crowd-funding and awareness-raising campaign to support Syrian newcomers with learning English in Halifax, Nova Scotia. You can watch the video below or visit the campaign website to find out more and to donate.
As you can see in the video, I highlight multiple ways that you can support Syrian newcomers with learning English. You can volunteer to tutor newcomers in English, you can donate English language learning materials, you can bridge the language gap by learning some Arabic, and you can donate to cover the cost of buying each family a copy of theOxford English-Arabic Picture Dictionary. I consulted with many people involved in English language instruction and they all agreed with Michael Ballard, that this would be an excellent resource.
I have set an initial goal of $3,500, which will allow me to purchase approximately 100 dictionaries for 100 hundred families. I have raised enough money to cover the cost of buying dictionaries for 22 of the 85 government-assisted Syrian families that have arrived in Nova Scotia thus far, since December 29th, 2015. I placed my first order for 12 dictionaries last week, and I will be placing another order next week. It would be wonderful to 'catch-up' with the number of the families arriving and be able to supply all 85 families with language resources (and be prepared to provide more)! Any extra funds will allow me to supplement the packages with additional resources. You can donate through thecampaign website.
I will continue to order batches of the dictionaries as the money is raised - every dollar will go toward English language learning materials for these families, regardless of whether the original fundraising goal is met!
While waiting for the first batch of dictionaries to arrive, I am working with staff and volunteers at ISANS to determine the most effective way to distribute the packages to the newly arrived families. I am also working on putting together a document with a list of online resources and phone apps for English self-study to provide to the families, along with a letter of encouragement and welcome. These will all be translated into Arabic before they are delivered to the families. Ideally, I would also be able to collect donations of various English language learning materials so that I am not only delivering a dictionary and self-study suggestions, but a package with a number of resources that would include language learning materials for children. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any language resources to donate!
P.S. If you want to bridge the language gap, you might also consider learning Arabic! If you have a HRM library card, you can study Arabic using a free online language learning program called Rocket Languages.
1) Ng, E., Pottie, K., & Spitzer, D. (2011). Official language proficiency and self-reported health among immigrants to Canada. Statistics Canada. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011004/article/11559-eng.htm
2) Pottie, K., Ng, E., Spitzer, D., Mohammed, A., & Glazier, R. (2008). Language proficiency, gender and self-reported health: An analysis of the first two waves of the longitudinal survey of immigrants to Canada. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 505-510.
3) Guruge, S., Berman, R., Tyyska, V., Kilbride, K., Woungang, I., Edwards, S., & Clune, L. (2009). Implications of English proficiency on immigrant women's access to and utilization of health services. Retrieved from https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/17685/1/guruge_berman_etal.pdf_
4) Bowen, S. (2001). Language barriers in access to healthcare. Health Canada. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hcs-sss/pubs/acces/2001-lang-acces/index-eng.php
5) McKeary, M., & Newbold, B. (2010). Barriers to care: The challenges for Canadian refugees and their health care providers. Journal of Refugee Studies, 1-23.
By Trisha Dempsey
We are so excited to announce that we have been matched with a Syrian refugee family! We had been concerned that it might have taken much longer to be matched, because there had been a significant delay with the government's update of the BVOR list of families seeking sponsorship. Thankfully, ISANS was able to reserve a profile for us when the updated list was posted mid-week. We were provided with a sparse profile of the family and we had to make our decision before the end of the day...
Of course we said yes! We don't know too much about them at this point, but we do know our sponsored family consists of a father (age 33), mother (age 27), and their two young boys (age 5 and 3). They are Syrians who have been living as refugees in Jordan. We look forward to welcoming this family to Nova Scotia.
Our final refugee sponsorship application forms were submitted to ISANS on Friday. After ISANS (our sponsorship agreement holder) fills in the rest of the necessary information, they will send the application forms to the Central Processing Office in Winnipeg (CPO-W). Providing the application is approved, it will then be forwarded to the Canadian visa-office in Jordan to be processed. Sometime after this step is complete, we will receive further information about the family, as well as the date and time that the family's flight will land in Halifax.
We have heard that sponsorship application forms are being processed very quickly and we are aware that other sponsorship groups have often had less than a week's warning before their family's arrival. Therefore, it is possible the family could be here in 2-3 weeks at the very earliest, but it will more likely be in the range of 1-2 months, since it sounds like they may still need to go through some pre-departure processes.
We launched this sponsorship effort on October 6th, and exactly three months later we were matched with a family. Thankfully we have kept busy in those three months preparing for the family's arrival.
The trick to effectively collecting in-kind donations and household items is to devise a system where you get the range of items you need, without unnecessary duplicates and 'too much stuff'. One of our brilliant volunteers came up with 'Project Housewarming' (inspired by the Salvation Army's Angel Tree project), where different groups and individuals were assigned a selection of 'tags' with names of household items, that they would then be responsible for delivering. Below, is a photo of a few tags on my fridge!
*Note: these tags have been assigned already.
At this time, nearly all the tags have been assigned and we are asking for people to deliver the items to us by January 12th (Tuesday). If you would like to take responsibility for any remaining Project Housewarming tags, please let us know.
Next week we will begin transferring items from the PODS storage unit (generously loaned to us), to the apartment. It is wonderful that we now know the family's ages, as this will help us better plan for the family. Also in this coming week we will begin recruiting more members to assist us with the family's initial settlement needs, and we will review and confirm our game plan for the first couple of weeks after the family's arrival when there are so many tasks to take care of (MSI, sin cards, opening up a bank account, school registration, community orientation, etc.).
We are also hoping to recruit several Arabic-speaking individuals who are willing to volunteer their time to assist with interpretation when Google Translate proves insufficient.
Finally, I would like to invite you all to come to the upcoming fundraising event below...
A Sausage and Pancake Breakfast, in support of Refugees Belong
Date: Jan. 16th (Sat), 8:30am - 10:00am
Location: First Sackville Presbyterian Church (60 Beaverbank Road, Lower Sackville)
Don't worry about cooking breakfast Saturday morning! Come out the the First Sackville Presbyterian Church for a delicious sausage and pancake breakfast, all the while supporting the Refugees Belong sponsorship effort with your donations.
Tickets: Breakfast is free; voluntary donations are appreciated! Donations of $10.00 or more will be issued mailed out receipts if name and address are provided. Cheques should be made payable to First Sackville Presbyterian and marked ‘Refugee Fund’.
Breakfast limited to 100 people—call 902-865-1390 if you wish to reserve one of those spaces.
A huge thank you to the First Sackville Presbyterian Church for hosting this upcoming fundraising event for Refugees Belong.
*Follow us through our Facebook page to stay updated on refugee-related news and updates.
by Trisha Dempsey
An update is long over due! It has been nearly a month since our last blog post, and that month has been a busy one!
Here is a list of what we have accomplished since our first fundraiser on November 14th:
Whew, and that is the abbreviated version! Don't forget to follow us on Facebook for updates as well!
Finally, what are you doing today (Dec. 18th)? Christmas shopping? Errands? Work? If you are in the vicinity of downtown Halifax, be sure to visit Refugees Belong at the Pop-up Cafe & Market at 1587 Barrington Street (The Chameleon). It is a wonderful community fundraising event for incoming refugee families.
by Trisha Dempsey
We are thrilled to have had such a great turn-out and to have surpassed our fundraising goal for the evening. We raised $10,066 to go toward sponsoring a refugee family to come to Nova Scotia! The sold-out fundraising dinner was a huge success due to an amazing group of volunteers and the enthusiastic and generous attendees.
The dinner was a delicious Syrian meal with a tasty dessert. Our incredible volunteers prepared and served over 200 of these dishes! We had an impressive array of items to bid on in the silent auction, there was a raffle prize, educational programming and activities related to the refugee crisis and the war in Syria, as well as some inspirational speeches. We were deeply honoured that Arta Rexhepi accepted our invitation to speak about her experiences at our event. Arta is a former refugee who came to Halifax in 1999, after Canada airlifted her and her family from Kosovo's conflict zone. You can read about Arta's experience in an article she wrote for CBC News last year.
We were also pleased to have Councillor Steve Craig (District 15) attend our dinner. He gave us a shout-out on his Twitter account and included some photos from the evening.
This event truly was the outcome of so many people coming together and collaborating over the span of just a few weeks. I wish I could list you all by name to thank you, but there were so many of you I would be worried about accidentally missing one of your names! Please know, that all your efforts were noticed and appreciated. A huge thank you to all the volunteers who contributed to making this event a success!!!
So what's next for Refugees Belong?
We need to gather together the required core group of about 12 people who will be able to make the long-term sponsorship commitment and assume the legal responsibilities of refugee sponsorship. These group members will oversee and organize the necessary preparations that need to happen before the refugee family's arrival, and they will also be responsible for providing the family with practical and social support for the duration of one year after they arrive. We hope to have these group members confirmed by the end of November - at which point we will submit our initial application to ISANS (our sponsorship agreement holder). We will then be ready to engage with the broader community to organize more fundraising events and tackle some of the other preparatory steps (e.g. securing affordable accommodations for the family). You can read more about where we are at with our sponsorship process here.
There are a few upcoming fundraisers that will be hosted by other groups in Halifax, Antigonish, and St. Margaret's Bay area in the next couple of weeks. Be sure to check out their events as well!
Thank you so much for walking this journey with us! Nova Scotia is ready to welcome refugees!
Always remember - hope, love, and compassion are stronger than fear and hate. ♥
Join us for the first fundraiser for Refugees Belong!
When? Saturday, November 14, @ 7 PM.
Where? Vineyard Ministry Centre (1129 Sackville Drive)
Cultivating Belonging: An Evening to Connect with the Refugee Experience. 100% of the funds raised will go towards bringing a family to Canada and settling them in our community. Come and show your support!
Tickets are $10 per person and must be bought in advance from the Avodah Cafe (1129 Sackville Drive / 902-864-4652). You can also reserve tickets by emailing email@example.com. We need to know by Wednesday, November 11th, how many people are coming so that we can prepare enough food!
There will be delicious Syrian food, as well as entertainment, and education about Syria and the refugee crisis. We are thrilled to let you know that Arta Rexhepi has accepted our invitation to speak about her experiences coming to Halifax as a Kosovar refugee in 1999. You can find out more about Arta's journey in an article she published in CBC News last year.
We have also recently received word that CTV is interested in filming the event!
Join the Facebook event page for updates.
By Trisha Dempsey
On October 2nd, 2015, Shawna Lucas posted the following reflection and photo on Facebook, after a visit to Pier 21:
"I find this memorial at Pier 21 deeply moving. It is called the Wheel of Conscience and was designed to remember the Jewish people who tried to find asylum in Canada in 1939, but were sent back to Europe and Germany and suffering and death. It is a moment in Canada's history where we abandoned our humanity and the judgement of history has shown that we have blood on our hands. How many of us, if we could, would go back and try and change that moment in history?
When you stand and stare at this monument it is reflective, you can see yourself as you ponder the cogs of hatred, racism, xenophobia and antisemitism. It begs the question, what can I do now to make sure this isn't happening in the present? Although Canada is not physically pushing boats of refugees away from our shores, we are not doing enough to welcome them and make sure they get somewhere safe. We can't change the past, but we can change the present."
Shawna is an old friend of mine I hadn't seen in a while. Aware of my interest in refugee and immigrant issues, Shawna contacted me several days after her Facebook post to tell me how she wanted to organize a local sponsorship of a refugee family, and that we should meet up and talk about it. The Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) happened to be having an information session on refugee sponsorship that week at the Halifax Central Library. We decided to attend and discuss the possibilities afterwards.
The session, and the wonderful facilitators, were very informative and answered the remaining questions we had about the process (check out ISANS' event page for notice of upcoming information sessions on the sponsorship process).
Canada is the only country that permits private refugee sponsorship. While this should certainly not replace Canada's government-assisted refugee program (where the government is responsible for all of the resettlement costs), private refugee sponsorship allows regular citizens to get involved in the resettlement process. By covering the costs of helping refugee families settle in Canada, private refugee sponsors hopefully increase the number of people the government can bring over.
We were both really interested in starting a private refugee sponsorship group. The refugee crisis has affected both of us deeply. We both have different skills, knowledge, experiences and resources that would be useful in getting a sponsorship initiative off the ground. Shawna has previously gone through the rigorous international adoption process in order to bring a young girl from Rwanda into her family, and is currently persisting with great determination in a 7-year-long, private sponsorship group effort to welcome a mother and daughter refugee family from South Africa. She is familiar with the sponsorship process and with her degree in public relations, she is equipped with fundraising skills.
I have recently graduated with no full-time employment yet lined up. I have, for once in my life, the resource of time! My academic background and previous research involvement, in addition to my volunteer work with Canadian newcomers, has provided me with a strong knowledge base on refugee and immigrant related issues.
However, we also recognized our limitations. As a busy mother to four amazing and adventurous young children, and as someone already involved in a private refugee sponsorship effort, Shawna is tight on time. Until Shawna contacted me, I desperately wanted to contribute to our country's refugee sponsorship effort in some way, but as a new graduate with an unpredictable future and no income, I felt really restricted. I could not contribute financially and was not in the position to make the long-term commitment required of a private sponsorship group.
Despite these limitations, we still felt we had to do something! We decided we could harness the resources we did have, and use these resources to be effective catalysts. We would assist and support other people in forming a private refugee sponsorship group.
I share this story because I know there are lots of people out there who want to contribute in some way to addressing the refugee crisis, but feel restricted for various reasons and helpless to do so. Everyone has some kind of resource they can contribute (e.g. skills, knowledge, experience, time, money, etc.)! You just need to match yourself up with people who need your particular resource, and whose available resources make up for the areas in which you are unable to contribute! That's our plan anyway :)
So far we have a name, a website, and a facebook group. We have had our first group meeting with interested participants, and our first fundraiser is planned for mid November - all within 2 weeks! Stay tuned!
Inspired by the group of people belonging to the Ripple Refugee Project in Toronto, who started a blog documenting their journey of trying to sponsor a refugee family, we thought we would try to do the same through this blogging platform. Publicly documenting the process will hopefully make private refugee sponsorship more accessible and understandable for others who may be interested in beginning this journey.