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What’s the latest on Leaside churches and their refugee efforts? ST. CUTHBERT'S ANGLICAN CHURCH

Leaside churches and their friends are busy supporting refugee efforts.

The Church of St. Augustine of Canterbury joined in sponsoring a Syrian family with St. Matthew’s Church in Riverdale. Their formal sponsorship period will end in January. The summer months’ activities included going on excursions to places like Niagara Falls, but also continuing English language classes, both government-run and with private tutors. The big challenge ahead is finding employment for the parents so they can transition to full self-sufficiency. Committee chairs Peter Shepard and Gina Davidson are confident the family’s positive attitude will prevail.

St. Anselm’s Church family of Syrian refugees also arrived in January, so they too are near the end of the formal, one-year sponsorship agreement period. Committee members who volunteered assistance are happy with the progress the family has made settling in Canada, and see a bright future for them. Tim Wood chaired the original Resettlement Committee, with Terry O’Connor now taking on that job.

There is serendipity involved in the sponsorship by Northlea United Church. The Christian Syrian family they are sponsoring had originally arrived in Canada last December, sponsored initially elsewhere. When that sponsorship didn’t work out, Northlea had the opportunity to become their sponsor, and rose to the challenge. They held a successful house-furnishing shower and talent show with a silent auction in April, and welcomed the family in mid-May. They will continue their full financial support until June 2017. A core group, including Roy Bennett and Elaine Perkins, among others, is ensuring the family get the help they need to establish themselves in Canada.

St. Cuthbert’s Church is sponsoring a single man from Iran, who arrived in mid-August via Istanbul. We have just completed that first rush of paperwork and making arrangements, including finding an affordable bachelor apartment in a good neighbourhood. Improving his English at all-day English classes is a first priority, although we were so pleased to discover that his spoken English was quite fluent when he arrived. We also remain in a queue for future sponsorship of a family. (I am a member of St. Cuthbert’s Church and chair the Refugee Sponsorship Committee.)

Leaside Presbyterian Church is working with two other Presbyterian churches on their sponsorship. A Syrian family was identified for them in January, but because of complications is not yet “travel ready,” and their arrival in Canada may be in the quite distant future, or not at all. In August, the churches were offered the possibility of sponsoring another family, who would be “travel ready” in the near future, but in order to accept that family, their sponsorship of the original family would need to formally end. They have agreed to this, but are still hoping to be able to support the original family depending on whether they come to Canada, where in Canada they settle, and what the financial situation of the sponsoring group is at the time, according to Dan Engels of the church’s Syrian refugee sponsorship committee.

Leaside United Church, where refugee sponsorship has been happening regularly over the years under the leadership of Bob and Lis Lister, are the last in line at this point, and are learning patience. Two Syrian families have been identified, one now in Kuwait and the other in Iraq. They have spoken to the family in Kuwait by Skype several times, so a relationship is already developing. The family in Iraq isn’t near a Canadian visa office, so arranging an interview is a major ongoing challenge. The Refugee Resettlement Committee is hoping that at least one of the families will be safely in Canada by Christmas.

We’d love to hear from you if you’ve been involved in other sponsorship efforts. Contact Leaside Life and share your experiences.