As part of our effort to support refugees, the congregation voted this past Sunday to sponsor a second Syrian refugee family. I’m proud of this decision, and I know that we have a lot of work ahead!
The first family we will sponsor is comprised of 2 adults and 7 children. The second family is comprised of four adults. We don’t know when they will be arriving, but the Refugee Sponsorship Task Force is working hard to get everything in place before they come.
It is so important for us to remember that we are not adopting a family. We are acting as sponsors. As sponsors we will help refugee families integrate as quickly as possible into their own lives here. Our role as sponsors is critical. By making a one-year commitment to the government, we’re enabling these families to escape terrible circumstances.
When the families first arrive, they will need time to adjust. Our initial engagements will be limited to the essential: helping them to get health cards, choose housing, enroll their children in school, etc. April Hope at the Canadian Unitarian Council, who has been helping to settle refugees for the past five years, tells us that refugee families usually go through several months of needing to normalize home life. She says that in the beginning, it is important to limit contact to 2 or 3 people from the sponsoring group. These individuals will act as liaisons between the family and the congregation. Imagine how overwhelming it would be to be approached by lots and lots of people!
These are families who have chosen to immigrate to Quebec and not elsewhere in Canada. This means that, in order to be successful here, they will need to learn French. Their children will be going to school in French, and that means that the families will need more support in French than anything else to navigate the system.
It is important for us to respect the families’ decisions. They will need time to determine their needs for themselves, whether it is learning French, English, developing job skills, etc. In the beginning, they will most certainly want to focus on their children's needs.
Yes, it is possible that we will build strong bonds with these families. It is also possible that we will simply be a conduit for them. Either way, we will have done something truly significant to take action in the world. We are doing this not to meet our own needs to feel good about ourselves, but to help people reclaim control of their own lives.
Thank you for your care and commitment to this endeavour,