I thought that, once my middle child started school this year, I’d have a lot more free time. How wrong I was. I didn’t take into consideration that a distant war would explode onto the global scene in such a way that I couldn’t not take action of some kind. Now I find myself deeply immersed in a world that I knew nothing about only a few weeks ago – the world of refugee sponsorship.
In the same week that little Alan Kurdi’s heartbreaking photo hit front pages all around the world (and made my heart and stomach give a sickening lurch whenever I thought of my own three-year-old boy), I received an email from an organization with which I’ve worked in the past called Mennonite Central Committee. This email called on Canadian citizens to sponsor Syrian refugees to our communities, and explained in detail how it was possible to do so.
Suddenly, I realized this was something that I could do to help the crisis. The Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund was born – a group made up of concerned local citizens from my community – and we are on our way to fundraising $20,000 in order to sponsor a Syrian family of six. It’s a joint sponsorship with the federal government, which will pay 40-50% of the cost to support the family for their first 12 months in Canada. (More details available on our website.)
Starting this Refugee Fund has been a fascinating lesson in humanity so far. I live in a fairly small, rural town, and a shocking number of people are very opposed to the idea of inviting foreigners, particularly Muslims, into our community. It makes me sad to see such xenophobic attitudes, but it makes me more determined than ever to stretch my children’s knowledge of the world well beyond the confines and safety of home. Through a combination of travel and friendships with people from other cultures, I hope they will grow up realizing there is far less to fear than many people think.
Fielding negative reactions from people is exhausting, but then I think of this paragraph that I read in a blog post written by an Anglican priest in St. Catharines, ON:
“If you think that it is too expensive, too complicated, too anything, then look at the picture of three year old Aylan Kurdi again, and think about writing a letter to his parents explaining all of the reasons why there is no room in Canada for them, why they don’t belong here, how we are too busy, and the life of their son was too expensive for us, why there isn’t a faster, better system for Canada to respond to the refugee crisis in the world—be my guest.”
A family hasn’t even arrived in Saugeen Shores yet, and I’m already exhausted by the effort, the hours, the thinking, the scheming, the speech-writing, the rehearsing, the asking, and the hoping, not to mention the disappointments, the unforeseen complications, the slow pace, the negativity, the doubt, the steep learning curve, and the countless unknown factors.
But it’s worth it. I am more energized and driven than I’ve been for a long time, jumping out of bed at 5:30 to get my daily post written for TreeHugger, so I can spend the rest of the day working to get this family here as quickly as possible. I have a newfound purpose and am determined to accomplish it. It’s an incredible feeling.
It’s hard not to hear the stories coming out of Syria and feel helpless, but here is a wonderful and worthwhile way in which you CAN help. Please consider donating to our community fund. We need to raise $20,000 and then a Syrian family could arrive within only 1 to 4 months. Isn’t that amazing?
You can donate online right here and will receive a tax receipt for any donations over $20. (Our funds are being held in trust by a registered charity.)
Thank you for your generosity.