In my line of work I make it part of my mission to provide a soft landing and a warm welcome to my relocating clients, who choose to move to London for a great new job or promotion. Moving to a new city can be stressful, overwhelming, and filled with uncertainty for any family.
Now imagine that you are not given a choice; that you have to flee your home and country because of conflict and war. Perhaps you are leaving members of your family behind, schoolmates, or the job and profession that provided for your family.
Despite it fading from the headlines we are still facing the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, the Syrian refugee crisis where more than 11 million people have been killed or forced to flee their homes as a result of civil war.
London’s response to the refugee crisis has been incredible and I am proud to be a part of the community that is welcoming them to Canada. Recently, I was connected to the Calvary United Church who had successfully sponsored their second refugee family – the Al Qawartis – a lovely and gracious extended family of ten. I have been truly inspired and energized by the group of committed volunteers who have come together to re-settle the Al Qawartis, who have arrived in late July.
All of this action is not without a few bumps in the road, of course. Like many local agencies, we too have had to adjust and respond to the timelines, demands and the volume of families who have come to London and safety for a chance at a new start.
While I am not a parishioner at Calvary, they welcomed me to their team with open arms and, in fact, are welcoming other churches wishing to lend a hand in some way. There are many opportunities to get involved to help with the effort and both government and privately sponsored groups are calling for volunteers.
You can make a donation (and not just with cash). You can donate your gently used furniture and household supplies, clothing, your children’s old bikes and helmets, and old computers that still work.
You can volunteer. There is so much to do to ensure the ease of re-settlement for refugee families. From helping find and secure a place to live, to transporting families to get OHIP and SIN cards, to taking people to appointments and registering for school, to showing how the bus system works and how to access services. If you speak Arabic, please consider lending your time and talents as there is high demand for translators.
There are several organizations in the city in need of volunteers. Additionally, there are many local organizations and faith-based groups who have privately sponsored Syrian refugees and who may require support.
I can tell you that the work is incredibly rewarding and I encourage others to consider lending time, treasures and/or talents because there is a lot to do and the need remains constant. London has a big heart and I am always delighted with the generosity we show to the world.
The Canadian response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis by the numbers.
The Canadian government announced on November 24, 2015 plans to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees to help alleviate the overwhelming number of refugees seeking a safe haven. Refugees would either come as a Government Sponsored Refugees or as Privately Sponsored Refugees.
As of July 24, 2016 Canada has welcomed 29,413 Syrian Refugees and a total of 320 communities, including London, have rolled out the welcome mat.
Government-Assisted Refugees: 16,078
Blended Visa-Office Referred Refugee: 2,790
Privately Sponsored Refugees: 10,545
Syrian flag picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.