In response to the Syrian refugee crisis that has seen millions of Syrians fleeing their homes because of civil war, a group of concerned neighbours, spearheaded by Karen Reed, came together to sponsor a Syrian family for resettlement in Vancouver. After attending public information sessions hosted by MOSAIC and ISS (Immigrant Services Society) the call was put out to neighbours and friends to gather and begin charting the course of private refugee sponsorship.
Determining Sponsorship Category
After researching the best stream of refugee sponsorship, we decided to partner with a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). An SAH is an organization that has already signed an agreement with the Government of Canada to help support refugees to resettle in Canada. Partnering with an SAH presented a number of benefits to our group. First, it would expedite the sponsorship process and provide us with support from a group that has a history of refugee sponsorship/support. Second, it would allow us to provide charitable tax receipts to folks who donated to our cause and allowed us to benefit from the organization’s administrative capacity.
Our team reviewed local SAH’s and made our selection- The Grandview Calvary Baptist Church (GCBC). This organization has a long history of supporting new immigrants and refugees to resettle in East Vancouver through Kinbrace, a housing and support organization for refugees . PSSI and GBBC have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines the expectations of each party and includes regulations about PSSI’s use of these funds for the exclusive purposes of supporting our newcomers. In addition, GCBC will not take portion of the funds raised to cover their administration costs, nor does PSSI.
Organizing Resources and Fundraising
Our group is comprised of folks with diverse experience and expertise who bring many strengths to this process and help ensure our success. After a number of initial group meetings where many of the larger decisions were made, subgroups were created to work on specific tasks; communications, fundraising and finance, application & SAH, settlement plan.
Additionally, a survey was sent out to a larger network who had expressed their interest in contributing their time or in-kind resources to this initiative. After collecting responses, we have a solid group of people to call on for the many tasks outlined in our settlement agreement as crucial to supporting the family as they resettle.
One of our first big successes as a group was securing housing (not an easy task in a city like Vancouver!). One of our group’s members, Sandra Moe, has a rental suite that she has made available which will comfortably suit a family of two.