What is the Syrian refugee crisis?
• More than 60 million individuals are forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict and unlivable or unsafe conditions (at end of 2014)
• The 4-year conflict in Syria has produced 3.9 million refugees and 7.6 million internally displaced people (these stats come via Macleans, and vary slightly depending on source)
• The number of people uprooted are 40 percent of the pre-war population, and half are children
• Approximately 2,300 Syrians have arrived in Canada so far, less than one-tenth of one percent of Syrian refugees
• Canada’s Conservative government promised to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees last January. PM Harper now says he’ll resettle an additional 10,000 over the next 4 years — a far cry from Germany’s promised 700,000, and the 200,000 that many Canadians are calling on the federal government to bring in.
Watch this 6-minute animation by the UN explaining the crisis and how the world is responding to it (or, rather, not responding appropriately). It also addresses many of the fears that Western communities express about refugee sponsorship.
What is Blended Sponsorship?
Blended Sponsorship is also known as Blended Visa Office Referral, or BVOR. BVOR allows a group to sponsor a refugee or family that has been selected by the government, with help from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Refugees sponsored under this program are already travel-ready and will thus arrive in Canada sooner. Other advantages are financial assistance and freeing up spots for other people needing resettlement.
What is Mennonite Central Committee?
MCC is a widely known and well-respected non-governmental organization that has been working with refugee resettlement for more than 90 years (among many other forms of social service).
MCC is a Christian organization, but is non-evangelical. Its global work focuses on 3 specific areas: relief in times of crisis, development, and peace work. MCC understands that our group is not affiliated with a church and that most members are secular, and that does not matter. MCC embraces religious differences. (See http://mcccanada.ca for more information.)
MCC is a facilitator for the resettlement process. There is a Refugee Resettlement Worker who will assist our group, match us with a family that’s a good fit, hold our funds in trust (because this is a government-assisted sponsorship), issue charitable donation receipts, work with our group’s treasurer to balance budgeting, and basically give us the support we need while we provide support, in turn, to a refugee family in our community.
Who chooses the family?
MCC will provide our group with possible matches. We have up to 3 weeks to assess a family’s profile and decide whether or not they’d be a good fit for our community. We have the ability to reject a family’s application initially.
How much does it cost?
The cost varies according to the size of family we wish to sponsor. At our initial meeting, the group agreed to aim for a family of 6 people, which costs approximately $32,500. With BVOR sponsorship, however, the federal government will cover 50% of that cost. We are aiming to raise $20,000, which is slightly more than 60% of the amount we will need.
Where does the money go?
The money is used to support the family during their first 12 months here in Saugeen Shores. It stays within the community to pay for rent, food, clothing, dental work, and other necessities. Mennonite Central Committee holds the money in trust on the family’s behalf and works alongside our group’s treasurer to allocate a monthly allowance.
What’s in it for the community?
We all stand to benefit greatly from hosting a refugee family within our community. Ethnic diversity is a wonderful thing, and we are tremendously lucky to have as much diversity as we do in a small town, thanks to our main employer Bruce Power that draws a wide variety of people from various backgrounds. A family from Syria will bring with them music, food, cultural traditions, stories, and experiences that can only enrich Saugeen Shores.
Already, this project is bringing the community together in great solidarity. People are eager to help, to feel like they can make a difference in the midst of tremendous tragedy. There are so many awful news stories coming out of the Middle East right now that most of us want to feel that there’s something we can do. This is it! Generosity, in the form of a donation, can make a real difference.
What are sponsors’ responsibilities?
• Reception at airport
• Housing (still looking for a housing solution)
• Clothing, furniture, food (Adult Learning Centre has offered assistance)
• Community orientation
• Education (Adult Learning Centre in Port Elgin)
• Language courses (ESL classes available in Port Elgin for adults)
• Finding schooling and/or childcare
• Finding medical care (still looking for family doctor)
• Assistance with job hunt (VPI agency has offered assistance)
• Assistance in processing papers: SIN, OHIP, citizenship and immigration Canada (family must attend an interview soon after arrival)
• Any other additional living expenses
• Emotional, moral, and other logistical and settlement assistance
How can I get involved?
Cash donations are the easiest way to get involved. You can donate online through MCC’s website. The link is here.
Once we know when the family will arrive, we will ask the community for physical donations of furniture and clothing, as well as food.
Once family is here, our group will welcome broader community support in whatever form that may take – assistance with driving, offering lessons, teaching Canadian life skills, medical and dental assistance, etc.
We have regular meetings in Saugeen Shores, wherever space has been donated for our use. Meeting dates and times will be posted on our Facebook group.
If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.