We did it! Sponsorship #1 is done.

Yesterday (January 30) marked the one-year anniversary since our Syrian family arrived in Saugeen Shores. Now the Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund is no longer legally tied to the Al Ibrahim family in any way and they are officially on their own, permanent residents and, hopefully, eventual citizens of Canada. It’s thanks to you, the members of this community, that they have a safe new place to call home.

Two of the littlest girls entertaining my mother Elizabeth with English nursery rhymes they’ve learned at school

We continue to await matching with a second family profile and do not know how long that will take. Last we heard, we were 16th in line with Mennonite Central Committee, but the government stated that, on January 30th, it would resume matching sponsorship groups with refugees that fall into our particular category (known as the Blended Office Visa Referral, or BVOR, program, where sponsorship is shared between group and government). Matches will be made until the annual quota of 1,500 people is reached, and we have every reason to expect to be part of that number.

Our efforts to resettle refugees are more important than ever. With the turmoil in the United States and that hatred spilling over into Canada, too, everything we do here takes on tremendous value and symbolic importance. We must show our support for refugees and loving acceptance of immigrants from all parts of the world, regardless of religion. We must affirm our commitment to helping fellow humans in great need and to integrating them warmly into a secure future.

Mennonite Central Committee, the organization through which we’ve worked to resettle the Al Ibrahim family, sent out a message yesterday in the wake of Sunday’s shooting at a Quebec City mosque:

“We lament the senseless shooting at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec. Our thoughts are with the families of those killed and we pray for healing for those injured. During these times we hope and pray that we can come together as communities to build peace.

“Through our Refugee Sponsorship Program, we have helped to welcome many Muslim people to Ontario and we are glad that they are here to help make our communities stronger and vibrant places. We know that diversity contributes to healthy communities.”

Saugeen Shores has done a phenomenal job of this so far. I get emotional just thinking of the past 15 months of generosity, support, and love that’s poured out of our community. Our Syrian family feels happy, at home, and settled. They are thriving, will soon be moving into a home of their own, are enjoying full-time employment and learning English quickly. Best of all, they feel they belong here. When asked if they would consider buying a house in Owen Sound, they were adamantly opposed because they like Port Elgin so much.

Ghaydaa is quite possibly the best cook in Saugeen Shores… Here she’s making pita from scratch in the summer, not something she does on a regular basis (Photo: Elizabeth Davaze)

Thank you for all you’ve done this year, and for your ongoing support for refugee resettlement. Together, in our small towns of Port Elgin and Southampton, we have – and will continue to – make a real difference in the world.

– Katherine Martinko, SSRF coordinator