Another Refugee Success Story in London, Ontario

My contacts have been writing with encouraging updates about the families they have sponsored. Here’s another.

A bit of background. I met a group made up of seven women about a year ago. They were willing to sponsor whatever family was most in need. I mention the gender because the family they ended up welcoming consists of mother, father and FOUR SONS! (For reasons of confidentiality, I am not providing the name of the group. But I am very grateful for their hard work and kindness.)

All six arrived in November, and have found their first months of Canadian life to be very cold but enjoyable.

The husband and wife are in their forties, and are taking ESL classes. The  two older boys are already eager students in High School.



A Big Step Backwards on Refugees

I spoke of “gloom” in my last post. The reason is that a policy which had been important in promoting private sponsorship of refugees from the crisis in and around Syria has now been suspended.

As I understand things, there had been an exemption in place which allowed Groups of Five to apply to sponsor Iraqis and Syrians who did not already have UN certification. That is, ordinarily, an overseas refugee needs to get certified first by the UNHRC (or, in certain instances, by the government where they have sought refuge), and then a sponsor in Canada can begin the application process to bring them here. Under this exemption, the Iraqi or Syrian family would instead be certified by Canadian officials overseas, once a G5 application was approved.

This exemption allowed Londoners to put forward many applications which would otherwise have been impossible — because the UN, being utterly overwhelmed with cases, had effectively stopped issuing certificates.

The upshot would seem to be that unless a potential sponsoree has UN certification already, there is no longer anything we can do to help.

Please see here for the details:


More Family Updates

As promised, I am writing with some positive news, to counteract the overarching gloom. This time, the subject is family “K”.

About one year ago, I was able to pair up a young Syrian man in his 20s, a graduate student here at Western, with a single very generous local donor. The donor offered to cover the whole family’s expenses. As a result, this student managed to rescue his father and mother, a sister around his same age, and a 10-year-old brother. They had been two years on the run.

The new arrivals have certainly faced challenges. The life of refugees, even once safe in Canada, isn’t all roses. The sister is receiving weekly medical care for a kidney condition; and not understanding English made the treatments frightening at first. And the ten-year-old brother could use some entertaining activities, as he feels rather isolated at present.

Still, all five are full of hope for the future, and refuse to cling to past suffering. They have located a match for organ donation, and the sister is scheduled for a kidney transplant. The familiar are in regular contact with their kind and caring Canadian sponsor. And they are convinced that, given the warm welcome they have received already, Canada is the best place to pursue their future.

The son, who wrote to me with this update, promised not to forget the generosity the family has experienced, and to offer the same to others in the future. As he said, “Life is like a wheel, it has to be make a 360 degree turn to continue the cycle of life, so one day you give, the other day you will be given by others in return.”

Salaam and welcome!

Syrian Refugees in London: A Little Positive News

Things have been moving very slowly in terms of processing refugee applications. And the news about numbers from the Federal Government is looking bleak.

In light of that, I thought some positive news would be a welcome change.

London’s Byron United Church has been a leader in bringing over families from the crisis in and around Syria. In particular, they have shared tips and training with numerous other groups. In addition, they have sponsored several extended families. Don Scanlon recently sent me a heartwarming update about two of them.

Family “O”, as I’ll call them, has four children. One is at Fanshawe, two are in high school. The youngest is polishing up his English. Both parents are already working, one full-time at a bakery.  Family “A” has three children faring very well in public school, the father has secured a well-paying job with benefits, and the family’s special needs child is getting excellent medical care.

In sum, Don reports that “everyone is genuinely happy to be here in London”.

I received an email from Hana Moussa of the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre. She writes about another young man needing assistance:

A newcomer Syrian family is looking for a sponsor for their 24 year old son who is currently a refugee claimant in Germany. Their son had originally intended to settle in Germany with hopes that he can find a safe place to stay for himself and his family… The son is still very dependent on his parents for support and likewise his parents are dependent on him for support in the household because of his sibling’s difficulties.

After he left [for Germany], his parents sold all of their valuable possessions and sent the money to him because he has not been able to support himself financially. A short time after, the entire family was informed about the opportunity to come to Canada. They had no choice but to come with hopes that one day their son will follow them here.

His parents are depressed and unable to sleep at night because they are constantly worrying about him. They are having immense difficulties providing care for their children who [are already here in London and] have a high need for attention and care. The family is having a very hard time so far and cannot cope without his presence because they rely heavily on him for assistance.

His separation from the family has caused a lot of stress for his siblings because they are very attached to him and miss him dearly.

Student Furniture Donations?

Both Jill Barber and Ben Hill wrote to me with a good suggestion. They noted that many Western Ontario students will be graduating and moving out in the coming weeks. Every year when that happens, furniture shows up on London’s curbs. They both wonder whether there isn’t a way to have that furniture donated to arriving families?

Jill notes in particular that the Salam Community Donation Centre needs items. Ben suggests that we might help students get their items to Goodwill, which is providing vouchers to refugees.

I am sure that Western students would be keen to help, if only they knew how. Does anyone know how to get the students who are moving out connected with groups that are collecting donations? I can put volunteers in touch with Ben and Jill.

Another Call for Sponsors

My friend Emily Wood has shared the story of a Syrian family, currently living in Turkey. The husband of the family has gone missing, leaving a single mother with two daughters (ages 6 and 8).

The woman’s brother-in-law has lived in London for several years, and would like to bring the family here. They also want to bring over the grandmother, who is with the mother and her daughters in Turkey.

Not All Refugees are from the Syrian Crisis

Salah Hussein, a student here at Western Ontario, has written to me about his six family members. They are Sudanese, from Darfur, and are in a refugee camp in Ghana (West Africa).

Mr. Hussein is hoping to find a group in London which can help him sponsor them. They are ages 8, 12, 14, 15, 20 and 21.

You can reach him directly at <>, or email me.

Meeting: Sharing Stories, Raising Funds

Please join us for an evening of sharing stories and exchanging insights.

Monday, February 29th at 6 p.m. at Central High, at the corner of Waterloo and Dufferin. (Kindly hosted by the Social Justice Club at Central High School.)

We will have brief chats by:

  • a refugee recently arrived from the crisis in Syria;
  • a group which has successfully sponsored refugees;
  • a Londoner who is trying to bring family here;
  • a group which is still working on their sponsorship application.

In addition to sharing our experiences, the meeting will also focus on strategies for fund raising.

Further to the Syrian Family Links Initiative…

To those looking to sponsor a refugee family, and to those who have family overseas and need help sponsoring them, please consider registering at this site:

They are trying to do in a more formal, organized, way what some of us have been doing ad hoc here in London.