What is happening
Although there has never been a shortage of refugees, the ongoing civil war in Syria since 2011 has created a desperate situation worldwide as people flee the violence and are forced to build new homes and lives. UNHCR, the UN agency in charge of refugees, numbered Syrian refugees at 4,393,831 as of December 2015. The Canadian government has pledged to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees.
How we’re responding
The Cathedral community is sponsoring two families. This means we will help them settle in Canada by raising funds for the first year of living expenses, help them connect with local resources, and learn how to live independently in Canada. We are doing this with the aid of AURA, a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
How you can help
The first and most urgent need is money. The Cathedral Community Refugee Response needs to raise enough money for a family to live in Toronto for a year before the family can be sponsored and settled. Donating can be done online, in person, by mail or over the phone! Watch this space for updated needs as our first family arrives and settles into their new life in Canada.
Ways to donate
Cheques may be made to St. James Cathedral with “refugee response” in the memo line and given at any service or mailed to: Cathedral Community Refugee Response C/O Cathedral Church of St. James 65 Church Street Toronto, Ontario M5C 2E9
You may also donate using a credit card by calling 416-364-7865, ext. *801
Update: Cathedral-Community Refugee Sponsorship: A Busy Season
Kambiz, the first of the refugees we are sponsoring, arrived on July 14 from Iran via Turkey. With the generous help of cathedral parishioners, we have been able to find both temporary and long-term housing – a key part of our sponsorship commitment. And then there have been the many, many other aspects of settlement: meetings with a Woodgreen settlement worker, obtaining OHIP, setting up phone and banking, registering for English as a Second Language classes, accessing medical and dental care, orientation to the TTC, etc. This work requires Farsi interpreters. On some occasions, the interpretation has been provided by members of a family the Cathedral sponsored in 1989 – a moving example of the benefits of refugee sponsorship to both the refugees being sponsored and Canadian society. Refugee sponsorship also requires flexibility and a willingness to step in on short notice, which committee members have done with skill and good grace.
On the slowdown in the processing of Syrian refugees, Ian McBride of AURA reports that the federal government is quietly getting through the backlog, but certainly not at the speed of 2015– early 2016. In the meantime, sponsorship groups like ours have sponsored single adults and families from other countries while waiting to be matched with a Syrian family.
Finally, while the sponsorship committee will continue to support Kambiz until next July, we are looking ahead to our next sponsorships – of a Syrian family, and another family after that. Our expenses have been higher than anticipated in two categories – hiring professional interpreters and moving and storing furniture and household items. Therefore, we need to continue to fundraise in preparation for the upcoming sponsorships.
The sponsorship committee is deeply grateful for the generous financial support, practical assistance, and wise counsel of cathedral parishioners. With God’s grace, let us continue to welcome the stranger together.
Chair, Cathedral-Community Refugee Response Committee
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
416-364-7865, ext. *801