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Refugee sponsorship - Can we “do something?”

posted Sep 22, 2015, 7:53 AM by Kathy Carr

Is there enough support within the Carberry community to sponsor a refugee family? A meeting was held at Carberry United Church Hall on Wednesday, September 9, 2015, to examine that question. Peggy Reid and Gloria Mott led the discussion.

A group of 13 people ranging in age from ten to 70 came to find out more about how this can be done. With almost 60 million people displaced in our world, it is not surprising that about 20 million of them are refugees, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency. A refugee is a person who has been forced to flee their homes due to violence, conflict or persecution. In the west, our awareness has been peaked by the current refugee crisis in Syria. With European countries overwhelmed with the influx of people escaping war, and dismal photos and videos being broadcast nightly on the news, there are those of us on the other side of the world who feel them must “do something.”

Carberry United Church embarked on a sponsorship project in 2002-2003, and a family from Colombia came to our community. This was accomplished with a lot of paperwork, organization and work by a committee of seven, but that was not all. We also depended on the help of many others from the community: translators, drivers, visitors, suppliers of essentials to furnish and stock a house. As well, we could not have done it without the support of community for the various fundraisers we held.

This time, our idea was to facilitate a family coming from Syria to our community. Having spoken with the refugee facilitator from the Mennonite Central Committee, he advised that if we wanted to get a refugee from Syria, we would have to wait for a while – possibly three to four years, as so few have been processed. He also advised that without someone speaking the language, the sponsorship process is even more difficult. In Syria, 90% of the people speak Arabic. 

When you sign on to sponsor a refugee, it is an agreement to support them for one year. There are refugees that are “travel ready” – that have all their paperwork in place – who are just waiting for someone to sponsor them. They are from countries such as the Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Burundi, Eritrea, and Singapore. Funding needed ranges with the size of the family, but it is recommended that, for a family of five, about $30,000 is needed for a year of full sponsorship. Another option is government-sponsored refugees for which the government pays for the first six months. For those who are “travel ready” the wait is six to eighteen months.

The evaluation from the last sponsorship project will help us avoid or circumvent the pitfalls we encountered in 2002-03. What is needed is a core group of enthusiastic people to steer this process, not necessarily from the church, but from within the community.

Besides the thirteen people who attended there were another dozen or more who expressed interest, but could not attend. 

With the hopes of enlisting more people from within the community for this project, we have invited Arisnel Mesidor, Migration and Settlement Program Co-ordinator, MCC Canada, to a potluck supper, 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 7. This will be followed by a question and answer period starting at about 6 p.m. (This is early to allow him to travel back to Winnipeg in good time.)

This is for anyone who is interested in helping or learning more about this process (and if you cannot attend the potluck, please come to the Q&A session. By that time, the government may have sped up the processing of refugees here. Please consider this an invitation to attend! 

By Gloria Mott

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