Richmond Village Refugee Welcome: how is it working

Children in a bombed street in Syria this week. (Photo Reuters)

by Stephanie Williams

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]Canada is the first country to have a private refugee sponsorship program where the community is directly involved in the resettlement of refugees from abroad. Through The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program Canadian citizens can engage in the resettlement of refugees from abroad. Richmond Village Refugee Welcome (RVRW) is a community organization which has pledged to sponsor a refugee family to come to Canada under this program.

Private refugee sponsorship does not rely on public resources, but rather taps the goodwill and kindness of individual members of the community through fund raising and donations to provide for and support the sponsored individuals for one year in Canada. Community  organizations must have the financial and settlement capacity to fulfill the sponsorship undertaking.

RVRW submitted a refugee sponsorship application package to the Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg, which was approved early last year, and since then our adopted family has been waiting to be processed by Canadian Immigration in Turkey for many months with no information until this week.  On February 8 they were contacted by the visa post, and informed that they will be interviewed on February 26.  The next step is medical tests which will take place after that, but who knows when “after” might be?

At last it seems that our undertaking will actually materialize and  now we have to be ready to honour our commitment through to the end of the twelve month sponsorship period. However, we still have no idea when that will be. The commitment is extensive and will require man power, dedication and continuity.

The objective of family reunification and resettlement is not simply a matter of arriving in Canada and getting on with life as normal. Our family has suffered destruction of their home and their way of life has been totally disrupted. Not only will our cold winter be a harsh shock to them but our language and conventions will be alien. It will be the responsibility of the members of RVRW to ensure each member of our sponsored family is assimilated into Canadian life as painlessly and efficiently as possible, starting with toques and hot chocolate.