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The Wilkinson-St. David’s Sponsorship group has had a very busy five months.  On September 21, 2016, two from our group went to Pearson International Airport to welcome a young Karen family consisting of mom, dad and four children ages 9, 7, 5 and 1 to Canada.  We brought them to their cozy, two-bedroom apartment in Toronto’s east end, where they now appear to feel quite at home.

Our responsibilities to these calm parents and their energetic kids have been steady and demanding.  Our settlement team is working well together despite the demands of life from our own families, work and other commitments. E-mail keeps the lines of communication between us all humming and the level of commitment and care that so many have shown over these months is impressive.

Our focus in supporting this family has encompassed all aspects of daily life.  Because mom and dad entered a refugee camp as children and lived there for 14 years, their experiences, knowledge, and skills were shaped by limited resources and formal education, lack of technology, inability to participate in paid work, inexperience in using and managing money, etc.  Their resilience and calm, easy going nature, however, is also likely cultivated by their experiences in the camp. The family demonstrates a desire and eagerness to learn, adapt and take advantage of the opportunities their new life in Canada can afford them and we are happy and excited to help them along and learn from them.

Every month we ensure that this family has enough money in their account to pay their rent and other bills and then we assist them with online bill payments.  We have helped them become familiar with their neighbourhood, including local shops, grocery stores, the community centre for recreational activities (where presently the two boys enjoy weekly swimming lessons and the oldest girl is participating in a weekly art class), library, schools, drug stores, parks, public transportation, bank,  and family doctor.

We continue to assist the family in getting to many medical and dental appointments and have also ensured that each family member’s vision has been tested.  There have been many specialist appointments and we continue to coordinate with medical staff to help ensure that the family’s health needs are addressed.

The boys attend JK and grade two classes and the older boy also attends ESL enrichment classes to help accelerate his acquisition of English. The oldest girl, attends a LEAP program which provides intensive ESL support to help bring her up to speed for her age and grade level more rapidly. The toddler has just been accepted for subsidized daycare and, while she currently attends a half day daycare program at her parents’ ESL school, she will soon move to a subsidized full day childcare spot.

On Monday, February 13, mom and dad graduated to full day ESL classes. They are both making strong efforts to acquire English. We have all noted that it seems they understand more than they speak but their confidence is increasing.

During the course of this past five months we had the joy of experiencing reunification of the family with mom’s mother and father and four siblings who on November 23, 2016, arrived in Canada under the same blended visa office referred refugee sponsorship program.  These relatives are being sponsored by the Church of the Redeemer settlement group and it has been a really rewarding experience also getting to know the extended family and seeing how happy they are to be reunited as well as getting to know and coordinating with the settlement team from Church of the Redeemer.

In addition to the very practical tasks and activities that we have undertaken with the family we have enjoyed many social get-togethers, including Thanksgiving Dinner, trips to the beach, going for dim sum, the zoo, the Karen Church for Christmas Eve and Karen New Year celebrations, the Science Centre, and two potlucks hosted at St. David’s.

We are only five months in and we have already shared so many rewarding and fun experiences with the family and with one another. We look forward to continuing this work and supporting the family as they adapt to their new life as Canadian citizens and benefit from the opportunities that life in Canada and in Toronto can afford to them.

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On Monday, August 8, AURA is offering a training exclusively for our sponsor group. Training represents one of two steps required to qualify for providing settlement support for the family.

For those who have already completed AURA training, this is an opportunity for a refresher and to ask questions specific to our sponsorship.

All are welcome but we do require your RSVP for planning purposes. The location (currently TBD) will be disclosed to all those who RSVP.

Please RSVP to info@wilkinson-sponsors.ca.

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We are making great strides to prepare for the family’s arrival. Please join us on Thursday, July 28th at 7 pm for an update on our progress to prepare for the arrival of the Karen family we are expecting at the end of August, 2016. All are welcome. Please RSVP to info@wilkinson-sponsors.ca.

The meeting will help you identify how you can assist with the family’s transition to life in Canada and we will provide updates on the following:

  • Housing
  • Material donations
  • Access Alliance
  • Interpreters – language acquisition
  • Family’s arrival

Our most critical need at the moment is to grow the number of volunteers able to assist with settlement support. These individuals would visit the family and assist them with their day-to-day activities such as a grocery shop, a dental appointment or an outing to the park.

As per AURA protocols, anyone working directly with the family must obtain a police clearance letter and complete a two-hour AURA resettlement training.

  • Police clearance: Apply online and notify us at info@wilkinson-sponsors.ca when you receive yours.
  • AURA resettlement training: The next scheduled training is September 12 and registration is open. If you have not yet completed your AURA training, please book a spot in this session as soon as possible.

We hope to see you on the 28th! The location for the meeting is the basement of St. David’s Towers at 51 Donlands Avenue.

TRAINWRECK_banner_141122.001You are invited to dance the night away with Trainwreck, East End Toronto’s hot new party band, while supporting a good cause. All proceeds go to Wilkinson-St. David’s Refugee Sponsorship Group.

When
Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 8:30 PM
Where
Eton House – ETON HOUSE, 710 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L1
Cost

Book your ticket to the Trainwreck Night Out! in advance and you are guaranteed entry to this special event at a reduced rate.

Join us for a wrecking good time!

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The Wilkinson-St. David’s Refugee Sponsorship Group is having an
OPEN INFORMATION MEETING:

THURSDAY MAY 19th 2016 – 7:30 pm-9pm
St. David’s Anglican Church, 49 Donlands Ave, Toronto.

Our agenda includes updates on:

  • The impact of recent policy changes on private sponsor groups – Ian McBride, AURA
  • Wilkinson-St. David’s Refugee Sponsorship Group fundraising campaign
  • The Khalaf family’s adjustment to life in Canada with support from Wilkinson-St.David’s via the Welcome Project

It will be a great meeting. It will inspire you, answer your questions, and highlight what you can do now, through your advocacy efforts and direct support, to help Syrian and Iraqi families displaced by the war.

We are proud to announce that the Wilkinson-St. David’s Community Sponsorship group has been actively helping a Syrian Refugee family through the Welcome Project.

KhalafsThousands of Syrian Refugees arrived in Canada at the beginning of this year. Many of those families need help with basic needs and settling into their new home. We were lucky enough to have been matched with a government sponsored Syrian Refugee family of six on Tuesday, April 12th. The  Khalaf family consists of two parents and their four kids ranging in age from 15 to 21.

Though they are government sponsored, they have needed our help to settle in here in Toronto. They arrived in Canada the end of Feb., but had no permanent place of residence until April 12th. So, the members of our group started a volunteer schedule to help them adjust to life in Canada. As is the case with most Syrian Refugees, they lost their home and all of their possessions. We’ve been coordinating lists of items needed for people to donate their lightly used things.  The enthusiasm and response of our community has been wonderful.

To-date, we have helped them to enroll in ESL classes, locate a local doctor to help them with medical issues, find translators, make dental appointments through public health, and visit local food banks and settlement services in the area. We’ve been accompanying them to the library to access Arabic and Kurdish reading material and we have been bringing them food and household donations from our community on a daily basis. Their house is finally starting to look and feel like a home due in part to all of our members’ generous donations.

We have been sending out weekly updates to all of our volunteers and members of our sponsorship group to keep everyone in the loop. Since it may be quite some time before our own Syrian family arrives here in Canada, it’s been a great learning experience to find out what our family may need once they come.

The Khalaf’s are such a lovely family and are thankful for all of our support.

We continue to visit them daily with our Wilkinson-St. David’s Sponsorship group volunteers to help them with their basic needs as well as to extend our friendship.  The family speaks Kurdish and Arabic, but fortunately for us, their youngest daughter speaks enough English that she can translate for us.

If you would like to volunteer, donate, or be part of our distribution list for updates on the family, please email Lisa Munro at: lisa.munro@tdsb.on.ca.

For more information about The Welcome Project, visit their website at: http://www.welcomeproject.ca/.

syrian-refugee-crisis2.jpgThe Canadian Government has ended the special initiative that designated Syrian refugees as a priority. Now, it is business as usual for Immigration and Citizenship Canada handling refugee cases and all programs are operating with normal quotas.

Yet tens of thousands of people have raised millions of dollars to welcome refugees and help them resettle in Canada. The people are ready. The money is set aside. The need for help is extreme.

We encourage you to join us in supporting AURA’s Letter Campaign to increase the number of Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) cases available so that we can continue welcoming Syrian and Iraqi families displaced by the war to Canada.

The link above includes templates for writing to the:

  • Prime Minister
  • Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • Your local MP

Simply download the templates, personalize the letters, and mail them off to show your readiness to help refugees in need!