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We’re ready to choose a Family!

posted Jan 11, 2016, 11:50 AM by Kathy Carr
Thank you! Thank you! Your generosity and donations have enabled the Carberry Community Refugee Committee to proceed to the next step – looking over the BVOR refugees that are ready and documented to travel, and choosing one family for our community!
A meeting was held on Monday, January 4, with Shauna McKinnon and Bryan McAllister co-chairing. A group of about 20 were in attendance. 
The good news is that fundraising has reached the $8,000 mark. Because this is a BVOR sponsorship (Blended Visa Office Referred), the community only has to raise one-half the cost of sponsorship, with the federal government paying the other half. Estimated cost for a family of six, is about $25,000, which means that fundraising is two-thirds there.
Who are refugees? Refugees are persons who have been displaced by war, persecution or any danger that puts their lives at risk. They are people without homes who are looking for a safe place to live. The committee will look at refugees on the ‘travel-ready’ list – which means they have cleared all their documentation, have been interviewed by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees) and the Canadian Government, and are just waiting for a country to take them. Some refugees have been waiting for years for a new start.   Once a family is chosen, and their more detailed biography approved, the paperwork starts, and we could see them in from one to four months.  Often sponsoring a refugee family can take years, but because we are going the BVOR route, the wait time is much shorter. 
How can a family of five or six live on $25,000?  The community sponsors them for one year. After that time, if they have not found work (and many will have not, due to language issues), then they go onto the social welfare system, which amounts to about that much. It would be unfair to support them to a higher level, and have them “drop down” to social assistance once they are on their own.
The sponsoring committee looks after their needs for that first year: helping them attend English classes, providing travel arrangements and doing paperwork (such as getting them enrolled in medical).
he committee will also provide a liaison for the school system, teaching them the customs and nuances of Canadian culture (like explanations of Thanksgiving, Halloween, and a host of things we take for granted), and providing any other support they might need. Their job is to try and integrate into Canadian culture, and our job is to give them the tools and support for doing just that. After the one year of sponsorship they are free to stay in Carberry, or move on to another location in Canada if they choose. We cannot expect that they will stay in our community if there is a community of their culture in a neighbouring city, or if they have relatives elsewhere in the country. Our mission is to keep them safe, and give them the tools to make a fresh start for a new life in Canada.
Will they be Syrian refugees? Not necessarily. The BVOR list contains people from a number of countries in the Middle East and on the African continent, some of whom have been in refugee camps for decades. The committee will look at who will best ‘fit’ in for our small, rather isolated (from people of different cultures) community. For example, if there is a family member that speaks English, then that would definitely give them an advantage as they try to adapt to live here.
The committee will gratefully accept donations of items needed for setting up house, through the housing committee, chaired by Linda Robinson. As we do not have a definite time for a family’s arrival, we need to find storage to hold such things as furniture until they are needed. Thank you to Brad Graham who has kindly donated a storage shed for all the items we will need.  If you have any items you would wish to donate, please contact Linda at 834-2620. 
We are also looking for accommodation for the refugee family. However, as we do not know  the size of the family (we have agreed to accept a family of up to six members)  finding the proper accommodations at the right time will be tricky.  Bryan McAllister (841-0609) is chairing the “housing” committee, so if you have any ideas, please contact him. We have to keep in mind that because we are sponsoring the family at the same level as Social Assistance, then the housing has to fit within those budget parameters. 
The Carberry Community Refugee Committee has a Facebook page! Check it out to get updates on our progress.
Our fundraising committee (chaired by Lisa Steen) has put cans for change in businesses around the community. Thank you to those who have been supporting us through these cans, and thank you to the youth members of our committee who in very cold weather distribute and collect the cans. If you have ideas for fundraising, please contact Lisa, (724-6630). For those who wish to give a tax-deductible donation to the project, a cheque to Carberry United Church (Box 239, Carberry, MB R0K 0H0), with the word “refugees” on the memo line, will do the trick. 
The sponsorship must be done through a “Sponsorship Agreement Holder” and, although this is a community effort, we are using the United Church of Canada’s SAH to facilitate the process.  
As we went around the table to understand why each person wished to be involved in this process, many said it “was something they were interested in” but overwhelmingly, the response was, “It is the right thing to do.” One person put it most eloquently – “We have so much; it seems right to share with someone who has nothing.”

by Gloria Mott and Peggy Reid
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