Celebrating 3 Years of Welcoming Refugees to Our Community
In November 2015, a group of community members and St. James Cathedral parishioners gathered to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis. It has been a fruitful alliance! To date we have sponsored a Syrian family of 5 and a father and daughter from Iran. Through Canada’s unique blended visa program, we support these newcomers financially, practically, socially, and emotionally during their first year of resettlement.
How YOU can be involved!
Our volunteer opportunities include:
Interpreters, particularly in Arabic, Farsi, African languages, Spanish. Volunteer interpreters are needed for a variety of interactions with newcomers at various hours of the day. Scheduling is flexible.
Committee members, particularly people who can be available during the day. We are currently looking for members with professional experience in the public school system, and communications, as well as generalists. The Committee meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., in the Cathedral Centre at 65 Church Street.
Other ways you can help:
Affordable housing: providing or suggesting temporary shelter or permanent accommodation options in the downtown area.
Resource referrals: providing us with the names of services or other resources that might be helpful to newcomers from specific cultural or geographic backgrounds.
Donations: supporting the Committee’s work through online, telephone (416-364-7865 x *229), or cheque donations. Gifts are receipted through the Cathedral. If you are sending a cheque, please ensure it is clearly marked with “Refugee Response”.
To learn more, contact us at: StJamesTorontoRefugee@gmail.com, 416-364-7865 x *801. Check out the hashtag #WelcomeRefugees online to see more about refugee resettlement in Canada and beyond.
Learn more about the committee’s work here:Read More
What is Happening
Although there has never been a shortage of refugees, the civil war in Syria that began in 2011 has created a desperate situation worldwide as people flee the violence and are forced to build new homes and lives. In December 2015, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) numbered the amount of Syrian refugees at over 4.3 million. The Canadian government initially pledged to bring in 25,000 in 2015. The deadline was extended into 2016 and by January 2017, the number of Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada was 35,147. With the target met, the government has redeployed its resources and the processing of Syrian applications has slowed dramatically. Nevertheless, Syrian refugees and refugees from other countries continue to arrive, and at the same time many sponsorship groups still wait to be matched with a family.
The Cathedral-Community Refugee Response Committee was formed in November 2015 with the goal of sponsoring two families, one Syrian and one a named case. This means helping them settle in Canada by raising funds for the first year of living expenses, helping them to connect with local resources and generally learn how to live independently in their new country. The committee works with AURA (Anglican-United Refugee Alliance), a sponsorship agreement holder with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
How You Have Helped
As this Committee approaches completion of its third year, thanks to the generosity of Cathedral parishioners and members of the wider community, sufficient funds have been raised to allow three separate sponsorships (see May 18, 2018 Update below).
With this experience, we continue to develop a more informed approach to our work, in the hope of sponsoring a new family, from any country where the need and opportunity exist. Some residual funds remain towards supporting a new family, with the plan to embark on a further fundraising campaign in the not-too-distant future.
In the meantime, we continue to need help in the following areas:
- Advocating with the federal government for speeding up the processing of Syrians, increasing ESL resources, and retaining the Blended Visa Office Referred program;
- Identifying potential volunteer interpreters who speak Arabic.
- Identifying potential new committee members – the greatest present need is a teacher preferably with recent school board experience and connections, knowledge of adult ESL resources, and children’s summer school programs.
Update – May 2018
In the last update, we acknowledged our second anniversary, and we entered 2018 saying farewell to some long-time committee members and welcoming several new members. We continue to meet on a regular basis, sharing our various tasks and exchanging future planning ideas. We do all work with gratitude to you, our supporters, for your generosity, kindness, and belief in our mission.
Kambiz and Nastaran
In January we mentioned that we hoped to welcome another individual newcomer in the near future. We are very happy to announce the arrival in mid-March of Nastaran, a young woman from Iran and the daughter of Kambiz, who, as you know, arrived here from Iran in July 2016. Nastaran had been named for admission to Canada on her father’s original application and, with his hopes and our help, this has come about. Those Committee members who travelled to the airport with Kambiz witnessed a very touching and heartwarming reunion between father and daughter. Assistance had been provided in securing a larger apartment in advance of Nastaran’s arrival, and various Committee members will provide ongoing support to her with learning English, schooling, medical and dental care, and meeting all the government and other settlement needs, as we have done with our previous sponsorships. Nastaran plays guitar and is apparently quite musical, so we hope this interest will offer some social opportunities as she settles in Toronto.
The Joukayler Family
The Joukayer family from Syria continues to settle into their Toronto home. They are all learning English (the children in particular are managing amazingly), and Abed El Latif and Rabiaa are pursuing employment possibilities, managing their finances, and assuming responsibility for the different aspects of their day-to-day lives, all in anticipation of the completion of our sponsorship at the end of June. It would seem very unlikely that we will lose touch with this remarkable family!
In summary, our Committee has undertaken three separate sponsorships, all the way gaining new insights, dealing with new circumstances, and developing an informed approach to our work. Before the end of 2018 we hope to consider the sponsorship of a new family, from any country where the need and opportunity exist. To achieve this, we will embark on some strategic planning based on our experience, and while unexpected issues will always arise, we are in a better position than when we embarked on our first sponsorship over two years ago!
Do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions or would like further information – telephone 416–364–7865, extension 801, or by email – StJamesTorontoRefugee@gmail.com Thank you again for making this important, life-altering work possible.
416-364-7865, ext. *801