A group of West Shore residents has banded together to raise the funds, goods and supports required to sponsor a refugee family.
The group, made up of volunteers from various West Shore churches, wanted to do something on a manageable scale as a way for West Shore residents to aid in the refugee crisis.
The Westshore Refugee Sponsorship Group (WRSG) started last fall with five members taking on the initial push to get the project moving. They are now looking for like-minded volunteers to help get over the final hurtles.
“It’s only one family but it’s something we can do,” said Hilary Mackey, a WRSG chairperson. “It’s quite the process.”
There are three types of sponsorship categories. The first is private sponsorship, where an individual or group covers all of the costs and needs of a sponsored refugee. The second is government sponsorship, where all of those things are covered by the government. The third is a blended sponsorship where the costs are shared by an individual or group and the government through cost sharing agreements.
“We are a blended group,” said Mackey. She added that while ideally the government would contribute roughly 50 per cent of costs, in this case it would be more like 30 per cent due to the high cost of living in the area.
WRSG secretary, Linda Van Sickle is a wearer of many other hats, just like the other members in the group. She said “we are so blessed to be living here in Canada.” Part of that privilege, she added, is helping others in any way we can.
And this isn’t the first refugee family Van Sickle has had a hand in helping get to Canada. When she lived in Saskatchewan, she was involved in sponsoring a family from Poland.
“It was just a remarkable time, a remarkable experience,” she said. “We still keep in touch.”
But before the local group can summit an application for sponsorship, they must have the finances and other resources in place to support a sponsored family.
Then once they have all of their paperwork filed, Van Sickle said the process will happen quite quickly, with families already being pre-approved by the government.
However, getting those required funds in place is no small task. The startup costs estimated to support a refugee family of four is $40,000. Van Sickle noted some items, such as public transit passes are not included in that figure but are also provided for families.
To help with costs, Mackey said they are looking to collect some donated items, such as furniture. But with limited storage space in the meantime, the group is hoping to hold off on collecting the bigger items just yet.
The group is also looking for people wishing to donate services, such as English lessons. “I think most people want to be of a specific help… Some people have more time to give, some have more money,” she said, adding they can issue tax receipts for monetary donations, which are being collected through the Church of the Advent, 510 Mt. View Ave.
Mackey also noted West Shore residents can aid in their efforts by helping to organize some of their upcoming fundraisers or even just attending them.
“We’re looking for any kind of help people can give,” she said. “It’s a hand up to people looking to take care of themselves and each other.”
She also stressed there is room in the group for anyone else wishing to get involved.
“We’re going to work hard and it’s going to be fun,” she said adding, “it already has been fun.”
For more information go to wrsg.ca.
Mark your calendar:
- The Westshore Refugee Sponsorship Group is holding an information meeting on Thursday (March 10) for anyone interested in getting involved. The meeting will be held in Colwood at Westside Bible Church, 3307 Wishart Rd., and will start at 7 p.m. If you cannot attend the meeting but would like more information on how to get involved, email email@example.com.