The Rosedale United Church had taught the [private sponsor] group how best to resettle refugees. There are three ways this can happen, one of which is as Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs: Canada is the only country whose immigration laws mandate its citizens’ right to do this). Of the promised 25,000 Syrian refugees who arrived by the end of February, a third were purely private sponsorships. (Many thousands more are currently coming through the system.)
Raising private money for the Syrians turned out to be as easy as melting butter in a pan. The sponsoring group had $40,000 in hand in a scant six weeks. Other groups moved just as quickly. A posse led by a broadcaster bagged $130,000 with a single group e-mail she sent to 50 people.
This sponsor group split into a slew of subcommittees: liaison, logistics, housing, finance, education, resources, employment. While Mary McConville scoured potential apartments in four neighborhoods, Lawrence and his team searched for schools. Meanwhile, Jane Gotlib solicited furniture and clothes from volunteers. So much stuff was proffered, she created a registry to track what the Suleymans still needed. The sponsors stocked the refrigerator, too, from a Middle Eastern supermarket.
The six core members met every two weeks, with two-page written agendas and e-mailed follow-ups. Medical checkups and immunizations? Arranged and chauffeured. ESL lessons? Booked. After three years of war stress and no dental care, the Suleymans, like many Syrians, were experiencing a crisis of their own: The group instantly raised another $6,500 for all their dental work, but a dentist pal of the group’s refused to take payment.
The government pays refugees like the Suleymans a $1,486 monthly stipend, for six months (government-sponsored refugees get it for a year), and $1,350 a month in ongoing child tax credits. The Suleymans have saved somewhere between $12,000 and $18,000 as a cushion at the end of their first year in Canada, just as the group steps away, financially.
They’ll need it. “Without our contribution,” one of their sponsors said, “they’ll both need full-time minimum-wage jobs to have the same level of income they have now with our contribution.”
[The Globe and Mail]