Formed in 2016, FACES’ name stands for First Avenue Churches and Community Embracing Sponsorships.
The group consists of churches uniquely connected by their proximity to First Avenue in the Glebe: St. Matthew’s Anglican, Glebe St. James United and St. Giles Presbyterian, as well as members of the Ottawa community.
FACES believes in working together to “make justice” by assisting refugees to come to Canada and supporting their transition to a new life here. FACES seeks to be inclusive and open in refugee sponsorship regardless of faith, ethnicity, health condition or sexual orientation.
FACES’ original refugee sponsorship goal was to sponsor three families under a shared cost program with the federal government. The group put in place a budget of $10,000 per family and a team of volunteers to assist them. However, it quickly became evident that it takes a lot more money and volunteers to support newcomers to Canada than initially estimated. And the group’s sponsorship goal grew.
To date, with the help of generous donors and many fundraising activities – including at St. Matthew’s – FACES has raised over $300,000, all of which has been put to work assisting eight formally sponsored refugee families (equalling 26 newcomers) as well as helping more than 50 additional refugees through various programs and at various stages of their integration process.
A typical sponsorship is 12 months but FACES’ involvement usually extends beyond the first required year of financial assistance.
Newcomers first stay with a welcome family and FACES helps start the process of being documented as landed immigrants. A volunteer team helps register newcomers for support services and benefits in Canada. Another team finds appropriate housing for the family, gathering furniture, clothing and staples needed by the family. Other members of the team offer language training, help any children get settled in school and potentially get them involved in extracurricular activities. FACES also supports adult newcomers prepare for employment. Social events are organized to help them make new friends and contacts, and aid with integration into their new community.
Each newcomer and each family are different, with differing abilities and needs. Integration is not easy. Newcomers to Canada likely need to learn a new language. They may need to go back to school, complete a degree or seek re-training. Skills may need to be upgraded to become employable. At the same time, adult newcomers need to provide and care for their family. All of this needs to be done while dealing with their own personal challenges. Many newcomers require emotional support and medical help. Some may suffer from PTSD or depression or have mental and physical health challenges.
For all of these reasons, FACES has seen that with some newcomers, 12 months is not enough time to become independent and self-sustaining and the group continues to support newcomers as it is able.
In addition to continuing to support and be involved with the families and newcomers previously sponsored, FACES has made an application for a new sponsorship. The group hopes to welcome Noor and Omar, a young Iraqi couple who are beginning their married life together as refugees in Turkey, to Canada, likely in 2023.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult for newcomers. In addition, public health restrictions have made it difficult for FACES to hold fundraising events. Please consider a financial donation to help the group continue to make a real difference in newcomers’ lives.
FACES is always in need of funding and welcome financial donations of any size. St. Matthew’s handles some administrative tasks for FACES. Please make cheques payable to St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, with “Refugee support” written in the memo line.
It takes a large team to sponsor a family and there are many different activities and tasks that can make use of a range of abilities and skills. But it mostly takes just a kind heart to start!
Last updated: November 22, 2021
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