Members of the Westshore Refugee Sponsorship Group Susan Davis (right), along with Linda and Bill Van Sickle have been working hard to raise the funds needed to sponsor a Syrian family. The wait times have increased and now the group is expecting the family of five sometime this year. (Gazette file photo)

West Shore sponsorship group still awaiting arrival of refugee family

Family of five anticipated to arrive sometime this year

A local group that is sponsoring a Syrian refugee family will have to wait a bit longer until the family arrives in Canada.

“We know it’s harder for them than it is for us, but we also know it’s a typical part of the process. We’ll be happy when we get the news,” said Susan Davis, a member of the Westshore Refugee Sponsorship Group.

“They’ve been waiting much longer than we have and we’ll continue to wait.”

When the group initially submitted the application to Immigration Canada in January 2017 to sponsor the family, the wait time was expected to be eight months or so. However, the wait time as posted on the website is now 15 months, meaning the family won’t arrive until spring of this year – several months later than anticipated.

Now, the local group is on standby mode until they receive word that the family has been interviewed, criminal and medical checks have been conducted, and they’ve been approved to come to Canada.

“It’s a little disappointing,” Davis said.

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The family of five that the group has chosen to sponsor, includes the father, who is a trades person, mother and six, four and one-and-a-half-year-old daughters, who have been living in Lebanon since fleeing war-torn Syria years ago.

The father’s brother was living in Canada when war initially broke out, and since that time, his sister and her children, as well as his parents, have also been sponsored to come to Canada.

Over the past year, the group has raised more than $30,000 – money that will help cover the costs of living expenses such as rent, food and hydro for the family’s first year in Canada.

Davis spoke with the family in the spring through WhatsApp and said they’re excited to come to the West Shore.

“They practiced a bit of English and we practiced a bit of Arabic. Their brother did lots of translating of course,” she said. “They’re excited to know there are people here who are sponsoring them and they are looking forward to starting life here … and being reunited with some of their family.”

But once here, it’s anticipated the family will face a whole new set of challenges.

According to Sabine Lehr with the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, depending on people’s backgrounds, a newcomer’s ability to speak English can impact all aspects of their lives – from being unable to navigate the community if you can’t read the street names to being unable to find a job until they learn the basics.

Adjusting to the cultural differences and dealing with the loss of their family, friends and community are also major and long-lasting challenges. But those challenges can made easier with the help of sponsorship groups, such as the West Shore group, whom newcomers can turn to for advice.

“We encourage [newcomers] to give themselves the time to learn English so that they can speak it at a level where they can actually look for a job that’s aligned with their interests and background,” said Lehr, private sponsorship of refugees manager with the association.

“That’s where sponsors are making a big difference because they’re helping navigate these things that are incomprehensible, that people without having the support of a sponsor, don’t know who to ask.”

From November 2015 to December 2017, 243 government-assisted refugees and 273 privately-sponsored refugees have resettled in Victoria, as part of the Canadian government’s commitment to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to the country.

Donations can still be made to the West Shore group.

For more information or to contribute visit wrsg.ca.


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kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

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