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Syrian Refugees Sponsorship: The Costs And Procedure in Canada

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 18/03/2016 Pauline Paquin

My awesome friend Daris has been raising funds for the past few months to sponsor a Syrian family to come live in her city of Chilliwack, British Columbia. And now the family has arrived! Here is an interview we did, talking about how much it costs to sponsor a family, and how to do it. I hope you will love this story as much as I did, this is a wonderful initiative from a wonderful community.

Can you introduce yourself and the other people in the project, what prompted you to sponsor a family?

My name is Daris LaPointe and I am working with a stellar group of ladies; Debby LaPointe, Eleasha Sabourin, Julia Dodge and Amber Price. We call our group REaCH (Refugees and Chilliwack). We all came together because of different tipping points. For some it was seeing the kids suffering and the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi lying on the beach. For me it was seeing the news reporter tripping a refugee father running with his kids. It broke my heart to see how poorly the refugees were being treated. The following week I attended a fundraiser at the Mennonite church and their speaker was a Doctor that had been a refugee herself. She spoke of her journey as a child and of how her life was changed by a group of caring people.

How does it work exactly, do you pick the family? How long does the process take?

There are three ways that I know of that can help make sponsorship happen:

There may be other ways however, I have not researched them further.

In Canada a refugee can send a letter to a standard agreement holder (SAH) and request sponsorship. They tell their story and typically a church that has a history of helping refugees sponsors the family that asked for help. In our case we got a BVOR list of preselected candidates from UN. The approved list shared limited info on the family. It gave us ages of family members, if they spoke English and if they had any major disabilities or health issues. We wanted to sponsor a family of 4-6 with kids because each of us has had kids.

2016-03-18-1458266785-7636712-sponsorsyrianfamily.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-18-1458266785-7636712-sponsorsyrianfamily.jpg  

The Zantah Family With Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz (credit Paul Henderson)

Can any community or group of friends sponsor a family provided they have the funds?

Yes, there is an interview process but if you are well intentioned and can show you have funds then you can sponsor a family.

How much is the total cost and how did you raise the funds?

Since the government is splitting the cost with us it's about $15,000 that is needed. Typically a family of 4 needs about $30,000 to sponsor them for the year. We fundraised in order to get enough money to make it happen. We used GoFundMe, and held two dinners with silent auctions.

How do you spread the money, I imagine you paid for flights and a few months worth of rent upfront, do they get an allowance each month?

The government paid for flights and is covering interim health care. In the past, the refugee was required to pay back the flight cost which saddled them with debt before they even started. We give the family a monthly sum for them to get use to budgeting in Canada. At the end of the year whatever is left over is theirs and they should be independent enough that it will be only our friendship they will need.

What if they find work next month do they stop getting the money? Did they have a job lined up? In this case would you keep the balance to bring another family?

We debated this- the money we raised for them. They have other family members they may wish to sponsor in future. It'll be up to them how they spend their money. If they become independent before the year is our we could move forward and sponsor another family.

There are options for night or day classes for English. If someone works then they go to night classes.

What kind of non monetary help and support is the family getting?

The government gives the family a small stipend to cover rent and groceries. They can work and earn 50% additional to what is given without being penalized. Chilliwack has many community services available to the families. It offers full time English classes with childcare for the kids. There is an interim health care plan that will help cover basic needs as for neighbours and community involvement many grassroot groups have been popping up on Facebook and through churches and other community groups to provide assistance to refugee families.

  2016-03-18-1458266699-4682221-sponsorrefugeescanada.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-18-1458266699-4682221-sponsorrefugeescanada.jpg

Meeting the Zantah's for the first time at the airport (credit Paul Henderson)

Can you tell me about the family you are sponsoring?

The family we are lucky to sponsor are the Zantah's. The dad, Safouh Zantah, the mom, Hasnaa Shokir and the boys M. Tamer(4) and Amjad(2). Safouh drove large trucks back in Syria and is working towards doing that here. We will help them find work. Hasnaa wants to work with kids in a daycare or preschool. They have been offered work straight off as a pizza cook, power washer and barista. However, at this point it's more important they settle in and learn English.

Thank you so much Daris for sharing. If you enjoyed this post, please share it too! Visit REaCh to find out more about this great project.


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