Refugee Support- FACES
The three churches on First Avenue near Bank Street and a community group have joined forces to sponsor refugees over three years. Our name is FACES which stands for First Avenue Churches and Community Embracing Sponsorships. The churches are St. Matthew’s Anglican, Glebe St. James United, and St. Giles Presbyterian. Here at St. Matthew’s, the initiative was prompted by parish study sessions seeking more of a social justice commitment in our outreach ministry. In addition to feeding the hungry and supporting shelters, we want to make meaningful long term changes in the lives of those we touch. FACES is committed to sponsoring refugees regardless of ethnicity, faith, health condition or sexual orientation. Two families have arrived and teams are helping them to get settled. We are working on a third sponsorship and there will be more. We have raised $150,000 dedicated to refugee sponsorships.
We welcomed the El Sellum family, originally from Syria in February 2016, and the Hakim family, originally from Iraq arrived in September. Both families stayed with our welcome family for about a week, allowing them to recover from their long flights, to start the process of being documented as Landed Immigrants, and to register for support services and benefits in Canada. Meanwhile another team was renovating the apartment for the family, gathering furniture, and the clothing and staples the family would need.
In the case of the El Sellums, interpreters were needed, and the parents have been receiving English training for several months. The family is adapting well, living within their budget, and the father is looking for work. We are looking at the option of paying for a training program for the father before the end of 2016. The mother has a young son and is expecting her second child in October. There have been a number of social and recreational outings and the family team is still actively supporting their weekly routine, even as they become more independent. Our financial commitment to the family must end in January 2017, though we hope that the friendships made will last much longer.
The Hakim family also stayed with our welcome family and then moved into their renovated apartment. The mother speaks good English and having family members in Ottawa will no doubt ease their transition to life in Canada. The family has two little boys, four and five years old. They have just started school.
There are several ways to undertake private sponsorships and FACES has chosen to establish a sponsorship agreement with the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa. The Diocese in turn has an agreement with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (successor to CIC) on the commitments sponsorship groups must adhere to.
Sponsorship groups and refugees are matched through a lottery process in which demand typically exceeds supply. While FACES has received 2 families, there are several sponsorship groups in the Diocese which have not received their first family. Our access to another family may be delayed until these groups are matched with a family. Meanwhile, we continue to advocate for a higher ceiling on refugee sponsorship given the remarkable country-wide support for private sponsorship. The Steering Committee has agreed that we will pursue the sponsorship of families and individuals considered to be at higher risk, due to, for example torture, health condition or sexual orientation.
Our next sponsorship involves a young single man who has been living in a Turkish refugee camp and volunteering for the International Organization for Migration. He has a Master’s degree in Engineering and is originally from Iraq, though he cannot safely return as his town is now controlled by ISIS. This sponsorship may take a longer time to complete.
How You Can Get Involved
We always welcome volunteers and donations which should be designated as “Refugee Support”. Our Parish auction on October 29th will also be raising funds for FACES.
If you want to be involved, for example, on a family team that could enable us to move more quickly in supporting the arrival and transition of refugees, please contact email@example.com or Tom Martin at 613-715-3378, firstname.lastname@example.org We welcome your offer to volunteer, although it may be several months before our next individual or family arrives and teams are activated.