This post was provided by Robin Nobleman, one of twelve members from Toronto Harbour as part of our refugee series, Leaving Home: A Series Exploring the International Refugee Crisis. The multi-part blog series features stories from those on the ground, as well as the response from charities and Canadians across the country.
The Syrian refugee crisis really hit home for me. Like so many Canadians, I decided I needed to take action, so I joined with a group of friends, and friends of friends, to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to come to Toronto. Everyone in the group has a different connection to the cause – someone’s ancestors escaped persecution, some were affected by the image of Alan Kurdi facedown on a Turkish beach, some wanted to carry on Canada’s proud tradition of providing a safe haven.
Our Sponsored Family
Although we originally thought we’d be sponsoring a family of five with kids, our group has been connected with a Syrian family of four who is currently living in Turkey. Working with other sponsorship groups, we’ll be reuniting a family made up of parents in their 50’s, their three adult children, and grandkids. They have cousins who already live in Scarborough, just outside downtown Toronto, and our group will be sponsoring the parents, their son, and their daughter-in-law. Right now, their application is being processed by the Government of Canada’s Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada department, and we hope to see the family arrive in Canada in three to five months.
Because we are sponsoring four adults and not a family with children as we had originally planned, the costs will be higher than expected. For example, we’ll need to rent a bigger apartment and other basics such as transportation, food, and clothing will be more expensive. On top of these expenses, it was recently announced that refugee families will now be responsible for paying back their travel and medical screening costs to the government. By raising additional money, we can lessen the financial burden our sponsored family faces and let them focus on restarting their lives in Canada.
Sponsorship, Fundraising, and What’s Next
In order to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees, our group had to find a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, which is an organization that has an agreement with the Federal Government to sponsor refugees. The organization we chose was Jewish Immigrant Aid Services Toronto (JIAS Toronto), and although our group doesn’t have a religious affiliation, we were confident in JIAS Toronto’s many years of experience as a settlement agency sponsoring refugees from all backgrounds.
A private sponsorship group such as ours commits to providing a minimum amount to cover the family’s living expenses in their first year in Canada so they can focus on learning English, gaining work experience, and settling into their new life. Our group, which is called Toronto Harbour, will be responsible for providing a safe haven for the family to help them with all aspects of settlement in Canada with the help of JIAS Toronto.
Fundraising to meet the minimum $29,700 threshold for a family of five was easier than we expected because people were so eager for an opportunity to do their part to help welcome a refugee family. CanadaHelps has made it easy for us to fundraise and start our year off helping a family or new Canadian begin again in a safe and welcoming place, and we look forward to welcoming them to Canada when they arrive.