Syrians arriving in Toronto
For more than a year now, Rosedale Presbyterian Church has been preparing to sponsor a Syrian refugee family. We are fortunate to have two co-sponsors working with us: Leaside Presbyterian Church and Morningside-High Park Presbyterian Church, both of which have committed to contribute both financial and volunteer support.
During the 12-month sponsorship we will help a Syrian family of four build a new life in Toronto with all the support and encouragement that they will need.
On December 8, with the help of our Sponsorship Agreement Holder, the Presbyterian Church in Canada (PCC), we submitted our application to Canada Immigration and Citizenship, for a Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) sponsorship of a family of 4-5 persons. The BVOR sponsorship is federally supported, with the government contributing six $2,500 monthly payments for months 2-7 of the 12-month sponsorship. In our application, we submitted detailed plans for welcoming, supporting and helping to settle a refugee family. Our draft budget is set at $50,000 and this does not include the $12,500 government support.
On January 21, we received the case profile of a family of four - two parents and two children - from our contact at PCC. We accepted the profile that same day.
A week later we received more details about the family with their names and ages: Father 30, Mother, 23, their six-year-old-son and five-year-old daughter. The father has a high school diploma and speaks some English. The mother and children speak only Arabic. The family has an aunt living in Toronto. Since then we have been awaiting the Notice of Arrival Time at Pearson Airport. Apparently this can be as little as two days notice!
Early on, back in December, a couple from the Leaside congregation generously offered to welcome the family in their home until permanent housing was found. In mid-February we were successful in finding permanent housing in a co-op located in Riverdale. It is a two-bedroom apartment and will be available as of April 15.
Meanwhile in the months of December, January and February, a number of volunteers took on the arduous task of collecting household furnishings and furniture for a two-bedroom apartment. Donations were plentiful and generous and we thank all those involved.
Others attended workshops and townhalls offering useful information to aid us with the complex commitment of supporting and helping the newcomer family to settle in the Toronto area. We learned how to access interpreters, health clinics, language assessments, settlement agencies and how to apply for grants such as the Child Tax Benefit and Interim Federal Health Programs. Finally, we listened to the counsel of many people with first hand experience in welcoming refugees some of whom were Syrians themselves.
With great anticipation and joy we await the arrival of our family. We trust that God will be with them as they also await their departure from Jordan and that He will guide us to fulfill this humanitarian commitment to the best of our ability.
UPDATE (JUNE 24, 2016)
At a meeting on May 25th it was decided by a group of 14 volunteers from the three churches, that we would cancel our rental unit at the Bain Co-op with two months notice as of June 1st. It was also decided we would do our best to find another Syrian Refugee family to occupy the unit and that we would request the Bain Co-op to put our family, who is still in Amman Jordan, on the waiting list.
Through a friend of a friend of Ijeoma Ross, we were successful in finding a family of five, on May 26 and we were able to facilitate the process of having this family able to take possession of the unit starting July 1. The Bain Coop has also agreed to place our Kara Mohamed Family on their wait list for a unit.
YOU CAN HELP!
We anticipate that many tasks will be involved in getting these families settled. If you would like to assist, please join our list of volunteers by contacting us at:
Rosedale Presbyterian Church
Suggested Links for reading:
Lifeline Syria Handbook
"Churches worry refugee response will slow" (Globe and Mail article)