March 16, 2016

Refugee group launched to sponsor a Syrian family

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Erin Refugee Action group was launched on March 3, with the goal of bringing a Syrian family of four to live in the community.

A fundraising target of $40,000 has been set, to provide for various needs during the family’s first year in Canada. That’s more than the minimum of $27,000, since the group wants to have a contingency fund for unexpected costs.

“We’ve raised $9,500 so far, and have an anonymous donor matching funds – we’re almost halfway there,” said Chair Barbara Harrison. “We have heard that many of the Syrian refugees are from rural areas. We hope to be matched with one of those families.”

The timing is still uncertain. The family could arrive within three months of a match being made, or it could take up to a year, said Harrison.

Support for the project has been provided by Transition Erin and local churches. The application for the sponsorship is being done through the Anglican Diocese of Niagara with local charitable donations processed by All Saints Church in Erin.

The money raised so far is in addition to about $10,000 raised in December with an event at Erin United Church, mainly to support the First Line for Syria sponsorship in Mono. That group has now welcomed a Syrian family of three. Khaleel Huseyin Alos, his wife Sabah Abdulkadir, and their seventeen-year-old daughter Helin had to move from their home city of Damascus to a refugee camp in Turkey. Now they have moved into an apartment in Shelburne.

Erin Refugee Action has set up a steering committee and has a broader group of volunteers. Drivers will be needed to help a family get to shopping, employment, appointments and English language classes.

“We'd love to get the service groups involved as well as other churches, local businesses and any community groups,” said Harrison. “One of our goals is to create community connections. We are hoping that other groups will take on some of the fundraising.”

The plan is to start off with temporary housing in Erin, then arrange longer-term accommodation either in the Town or within a practical distance, depending on the needs and preferences of the family.

Anyone who wants to volunteer, or find out what is happening, is welcome at the next meeting on April 6, from 7 to 9 pm (or come at 6 pm to be part of the fundraising team meeting). The location is All Saints Anglican Church Hall, on Main Street, Erin. Two immigrants from Syria will be leading a discussion on Syrian culture and resettlement.

Donation cheques should be made out to All Saints Anglican Church (with Erin Refugees in the memo line). Tax receipts will be issued for donations $10 and over. Donations can be mailed to Erin Refugee Action, PO Box 308, Erin, N0B 1T0. On-line giving options are being arranged, and donations of furniture, clothes and food will eventually be needed.

“We'll keep fundraising even after reaching our $40,000 goal,” said Harrison. “We may end up being matched with a family larger than 4 members (and therefore need more money) or might even consider sponsoring a second family, perhaps related to the first.”

More information is available on the Erin Refugee Action Facebook page. Email contact can be made at

In addition to the 25,000 Syrians the Canadian government had committed to resettling, it has announced a plan to increase the number of privately sponsored refugees this year. The number had previously been about 6,000 per year, but now they are setting aside up to 18,000 spaces for them.

Immigration officials have told private sponsorship groups that Syrian refugees who arrive after March 1 will have to pay back the costs of their airfares and medical exams — about $1,000 for each plane ticket and several hundred dollars per person for health screening. Sponsorship groups would not be obligated to cover that cost, but they could end up doing so.

However, Syrians being sponsored through the government-assisted “Blended Visa Office Referred” program – the joint sponsorship that the Erin group hopes to be part of – will continue to have those expenses paid by the government.

Overall, Canada plans to admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents this year, the highest projected level in decades. There will be a priority on reuniting families. Those coming primarily to seek work in Canada will make up the largest block of the 2016 immigrants, estimated at 162,400 people.