Status of Syrian Refugee Family Sponsorship by St Paul’s 

Update: August 25th, 2016

Syrian Family Sponsorship- Good news!  Earlier this week we received pre-arrival notification indicating the family we are sponsoring will be in Ottawa in the imminent future.  The following day we were informed they will arrive September 6th. Planning is on course and a welcome committee has been identified.  Housing near the church has been secured from the beginning of October. Options for temporary housing until then are being considered.  Our next volunteer meeting will be held on Saturday September 10th from 9:30 to 11:30 in the Sanctuary. At the meeting, we will: provide an update on the family’s arrival and status of activities; have presentations on lessons learned from other sponsorship groups; and prepare ourselves for providing support in the coming months.

Update: July 07, 2016

Our Assumptions of the Sponsorship Experience

On 26 June 2016, we held a meeting to discuss our own assumptions and expectations of the sponsorship result.  The meeting began with an overview from Alison Wheatley Price providing us background information on Syria and how Syrians have been affected by conflict over the last decade.  A copy of her presentation is available through this link

Next we spoke about how expectations are important for us to manage and cope with life.  We often use expectations to presume present and future outcomes.  Expectations are powerful because they motivate us but they can also cause disappointment when not met.  It is important to recognize the expectations and assumptions we may have for sponsoring our Syrian family.

Then we considered the following questions:

  • What has motivated me to be involved in the sponsorship project?
  • How would I feel if the sponsored refugees refused to attend language classes?
  • How would I react if the sponsored refugees did not send their children to school?
  • What would I do if the family does not like the accommodation that we arranged for them?
  • What if they do not get along with the landlord?
  • How would I react if the sponsored refugees have a health condition that was not disclosed prior to arrival?
  • How would I manage if their physical health or mental well- being deteriorate after arrival?
  • What if the father does not like the job that is found?
  • What if the sponsored group does not cooperate with the group?
  • What if they rely on information from friends and relatives rather than the group?
  • What general outcomes do I hope for?
  • What would a sponsorship breakdown mean to me?

In order to serve others we need to understand ourselves and the unique challenges which the people we are serving may be experiencing. If you have a few minutes, do take time to reflect on these questions.  They may make us feel uncomfortable but they prompt important considerations which help us to plan for all eventualities.

When we have more information about potential timing we will hold more meetings to consider cultural issues and expectations that our sponsored family may have of us. 

Update June 23rd, 2016

We invite everyone to another volunteer meeting on Sunday June 26th from 9am to 9:45 (before the 10am church service) in the Youth Room upstairs.  We believe this will be the last large group meeting before the summer break.  Once we learn when our family will arrive, we will organize more large group meetings. During the summer some subgroups may be organize their own meetings.

The large group meeting on Sunday will help us consider expectations and understand assumptions that we may have.  Alison Wheatley Price will provide some context (using main points from the talk she gave in February) and then will will consider questions (provided by PWSD) designed for self assessment about the sponsorship process. We hope you will be able to join us and contribute to the dialogue.  

As a tool to help us understand – and serve – the family we are sponsoring, we encourage volunteers to read the attached guide for welcoming young children and their Syrian families. 

Welcoming young children and their Syrian families

Update  June 15, 2016

Good news!  Last week, the Presbyterian World Service and Development (PWS&D) contacted us with a family profile for our church to sponsor.  The Syrian family includes a couple with five daughters between the ages of three and twelve.  They are currently living in Lebanon. The father has a background in cement work. Under the sponsorship programme for which we have offered assistance the family is considered a high urgency case.  We had a day to provide a response.  After reviewing the limited details with the Syrian Family Project committee and church session members, PWS&D was informed that St. Paul’s is interested in moving forward with sponsoring this family.  The committee is trying to get more details, including timing for arrival.

We invite volunteers to a meeting from 9am to 9:45am before the 10am church service on June 19th.  The meeting will be used to reinitiate our planning.  At the meeting, any more information that may become available will be shared and then we will break into our four main groups to discuss next steps.  The four groups are: housing, education, medical and administration/logistics.  Please do come.  If you know others interested in helping out, please do pass on this message about the meeting.  Those who have not yet had a chance to communicate interest in helping, please contact Marielle Rowan at mariellerowan@yahoo.ca to get details and to be added to the volunteer mail list.  Updates will be made on this website and through email.  All support is welcome.

Update June 14, 2016

Volunteer meeting this Sunday. Update from Marielle Rowan:

I hope you heard the good news that St. Paul’s has been matched with a Syrian family staying in  Lebanon. The family includes a couple with five daughters between the ages of three and twelve. The information is still quite new.  The committee is hoping to get more details during the week on key issues, including timing.

We are inviting volunteers to a meeting from 9am to 9:45am before next week’s 10am church service on June 19th.  The hope is to use the meeting to reinitiate our planning.  We will provide any more information that may become available and then break into our four main groups to discuss next steps.  If you know others interested in helping out, please do pass on the message.   As well, encourage them to send me an email at mariellerowan@yahoo.ca so they can be added to our volunteer email list.

We look forward to seeing you on Sunday morning at 9am in Campbell Hall. 

Sincerely, Marielle

Update June 12, 2016

St. Paul’s has been blessed with a Syrian refugee family!

The Federal Government provided a family profile to Presbyterian World Service Service and Development and St Paul’s accepted our family on Thursday. It is a single Syrian family of seven – with a Mom, Dad and five daughters who range in age from three to twelve years old. Our family is larger than we anticipated but, with approximately $70,000 in funds, we have more than enough to cover expenses. Please pray for our family and the remaining process. A volunteer meeting will be called soon.

Update: May 17, 2016

“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words” Francis of Assisi

In Luke 10:29, Jesus responds to a question in which a lawyer tries to restrict God’s commandment to love our neighbour by narrowly defining who our neighbour is.  Jesus responds with the parable of the Good Samaritan – a  traveller who shows compassion and mercy to a complete stranger during his time of need. Through this parable, God is calling us to love to everyone – regardless of race, culture or ethnic background – who needs our help.

The plight of Syrian refugees is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today, it affects more than 12 million people – more than those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake, and the Indian Ocean tsunami combined. In the context of this catastrophe, St Paul’s is offering to sponsor a Syrian refugee family coming to Canada in collaboration with Presbyterian World Service and Development (“PWS&D”).  We raised $67, 500 in funds from pledges – without reducing contributions already committed to our church. Sixty-five people have volunteered their time and talent to help our family when it arrives – with everything from driving family members to appointments, helping them learn english, finding them a place to live and even helping them find employment. We have drafted a code of ethics and privacy policy for working with a refugee family and have hosted information sessions to raise awareness and improve our understanding of the issues which impact Syrian refugees. We have secured the necessary resources, have organized committees and established a solid plan to address the challenges our family may experience once they have been identified and brought to Canada.

Unfortunately, our ability to sponsor a Syrian Refugee family has been delayed by the capacity of the Canadian government to process the families who need our help. Our offer to sponsor a Syrian refugee family from January 2016 remains unanswered. The most recent update from the PWS&D website on May 9th states that the government processing of Syrian Refugees continues to experience significant delays due to “… processing issues in regard to medical or security and background checks for individual cases.”  PWS&D continues to seek more information on this serious issue which our organizing committee is monitoring closely. In the meantime, our organizing committee is exploring other opportunities to make a difference such as the potential of establishing a “welcome group” to provide support (not financial) for Government Assisted Refugee families who are currently in Canada but who do not have a sponsorship group.

The gospel has a broad and uplifting vision of how we should interact with the world around us. In our response to the Syrian refugee crisis, St Paul’s is trying to live the parable of the Good Samaritan. Francis of Assisi would probably have considered this a good example of preaching the gospel through our actions. It is a great sermon, one which our troubled world desperately needs, but it may be a while before anyone is able to hear it.

Update: April 05, 2016

On January 28th 2016 our congregation voted to collaborate with Presbyterian World Service and Development (“PWS&D”) to sponsor a Syrian Refugee Family. Since that time, our Syrian Refugee Family Sponsorship committee has made significant progress towards this goal. Our application to sponsor a family was completed and submitted immediately after our congregation approved this project. We have secured the necessary financial resources and established a solid plan to address the challenges our family may experience when they have been identified and brought to Canada.

We are proud that Canadians have accepted as many refugees as they have in such a short period of time. However, media releases have now raised concerns that the Canadian government may not currently have the capacity to process more Syrian refugees in a timely way. We have followed up with PWS&D – who have a close working relationship with the government – who have advised us that while the picture is not ideal, it is better than what is portrayed in the media. Syrian refugee families are still being brought to Canada and there are some indications that the government is mobilizing its resources to address delays being experienced in this process. From announcements which the government has made over the last week we are optimistic that they will be addressing the current delays being experienced by refugees and sponsors. While we know that we are near the top of the list to receive a family from PWS&D, we do not currently have an estimate on when we will receive our family. 

What is clear is that there are a large number of Syrian Refugee families who are in desperate need of our help – our thoughts and prayers go out to these families during this difficult time.  We have been called by God to show his love to them and we are in the queue to accept a family once government officials are able to facilitate this. We will continue to follow developments on this issue closely and will post any developments on our web page and in the church bulletin – as it becomes available. 

Learn more about the Syrian Refugee situation

Update – February 29, 2016

As identified at the initial workshop held for those interested in volunteering on the Syrian Refugee Family project, our activities will be guided by the Leading with Care Policy. In accordance with this policy, we commit to the following:

It is the policy of The Presbyterian Church in Canada that all persons – and in particular all children, youth and vulnerable adults – who participate in the denomination’s programs/ministries and/or use the denomination’s facilities will be cared for with Christian compassion and will be safe.

In keeping with this policy, if you would like to interact directly with the Syrian family we hope to sponsor, you are required to complete a police check.  For the police check to be processed you will need a police form and a signed letter from the church.  Lynn Arthur-Beirness  (larthurbeirness@yahoo.ca) has copies of these documents.  Please communicate with Lynn to get copies.

We have received feedback – from others who have initiated the process – that the best police office to process police checks is located at 2670 Queensview Dr.   The police station is located next to the Upper Room Furnishings store and is marked by a sign that reads RMSC for the Record Management Services Centre Office. We recommend that you go either early morning or late afternoon if you do not want to wait for an hour to submit your paperwork.  As well, if you do not want to pay for the express police check it takes up to 5 weeks to obtain the results of your police check through the normal process – even with the letter from the church.  We are not asking you to pay the fee for an express police check, but we strongly recommend that you initiate the police check process as soon as possible. Please inform Marielle Rowan (Marielle.rowan@mottmac.com) when you have submitted your paperwork. 

We would also like to remind you of our next event on March 01st from 7 until 9 pm at St Paul’s. Who doesn’t like dessert, coffee and learning something new? Come and join us for an evening of learning as we seek to improve our understanding of the health, culture and general refugee situation in Syria beyond the news reports. Members of our congregation who have worked in international development and have lived and worked in refugee camps and guests from the Syrian community in Ottawa will be part of a panel discussion. This event is open to the wider community so feel free to bring along anyone who is interested in learning more about the situation in Syria. 

Update – January 28, 2016

At the Sunday Jan 24 congregational meeting there was a 88 % positive vote to support a Syrian Refugee Family in collaboration with Presbyterian World Service & Development(PWS&D). Congregational support for this project leading to the vote has been most impressive with 61 individuals willing to volunteer to help and financial pledges totalling over $ 62,000. The project team seriously noted the concerns raised about St. Paul’s inability to select a Christian family (family profiles do not indicate religion). It was agreed St.Paul’s will sponsor the family the Lord gives us. The congregation passed a second motion mandating Session to direct funds surplus to the project to Mission Partners. The team has submitted a request to PSW&D to sponsor a family of up to 5 members with no more than 2 adults.

There will be a Workshop for those wanting to volunteer with the Syrian Refugee Family Project, Saturday Feb 6th, 9:30-11:30 AM in the Youth Room. It is an orientation exercise to identify resources and better understand the refugee experience we will be supporting. Based on interests, volunteers will be grouped into support teams by key needs with team leaders. If you are not able to attend but would still like to help, please contact Marielle Rowan (Marielle.rowan@mottmac.com). Volunteer needs will range from one off to more sustained time contributions.

Update – December 6, 2015

The Dec. 1 meeting of Session approved next steps for this project. The strong congregational support was noted as well as the concerns raised at the congregational meeting. The recent government decision to do all security checks at the refugee camps is a positive move. Those who offered financial support will be asked to sign pledges from Jan 3-10, 2016. Then Session will review these and other aspects of this project. If it meets their requirements a special congregational meeting will be held on Sunday, January 24 to make a final decision on sponsoring a family of up to 5 people. Marielle Rowan and Kathy Patrick have joined the project to focus on special tasks. Work is underway to make information available on the church website about the Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Project. Questions should be addressed to Richard Lessard, richardtlessard@hotmail.com or Gordon Richardson, gord.richardson@icloud.com

Background on the Refugee Crisis

http://www.worldvision.org/news-stories-videos/syria-warrefugee-crisis

http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2015/november/love-refugee-with-compassion-christ-has-shown-you.html?paging=off

Overview of the Blended Visa Office Referral Program

Private Sponsorship of Refugees

http://www.rstp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/handbookAug2014.pdf

Security Concerns

Refugees screened and re-screened before entry to Canada

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