We’ve all seen those pictures – families stuck in impossible situations, fleeing violence in their home country. Canada is expediting the process for 25,000 refugees to settle here. Some refugees will be coming to Vancouver this weekend – and we’ve collected a few ways you can welcome them to our city, and help them get settled.
You can get your kids involved by collecting toiletries like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, washcloths, clothes, and household items for the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre in Surrey, who will be distributing the donations to the new arrivals. Several places in Vancouver are acting as drop-off points, including the ACCESS Gallery at 222 East Georgia St (Wednesday and Thursday, 12pm-5pm).
The ISS of BC operates a sponsorship fund, to help fund refugee sponsorships, and they are also taking donations directly towards their Welcome House project. The Inland Refugee Society of BC is another point of first contact for newcomers, and a good place to donate.
The Immigrant Settlement Services Society of BC needs volunteers to help new refugees navigate the bureaucracies around banking, help with learning English, and particularly help with counselling. For obvious reasons, many refugees are thought to have post-traumatic stress disorder, and the ISS is looking for registered clinical counsellors to provide short-term help. Many religious groups are also actively working to help refugees coming to Vancouver, you might want to check with your local temple, church, or mosque to see if they need help. The Inland Refugee Society of BC is also looking for volunteers.
The ISS has estimated 1,500 housing units will be required. The beautiful new Welcome House, a building the ISS is developing, won’t be ready until spring of 2016, and still would only hold a fraction of the number of refugees expected. A spare room, an apartment, beds in church basements – everything is needed.
Sponsoring a refugee or a family as a private individual or group means you are committing to helping them, emotionally and financially, for a period of at least one year. You can contact the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program, or connect up with a group who are already cleared to sponsor refugees (called Sponsorship Agreement Holders, or SAHs). Many religious organizations are already SAHs, and the ISS has a good list to start from.
Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images via ISS of BC, top image Joseph Barrientos via Unsplash
Erin McGann is the former Managing Editor for Vancouver Mom and Toronto Mom Now. She drinks just a bit too much coffee, is a bit obsessed about sourcing local food, plays the cello moderately well, spends too much time on Twitter, keeps honeybees on a rooftop, and has a thing for single-malt whisky. Erin is working on a novel set in turn-of-the-century Vancouver, which her husband, son and dog have to hear about all the time, and also blogs at Erin at Large.