Locals learn about refugee sponsorship

With the conflict in Syria bringing the plight of refugees to the forefront of Canadian discourse, members of the public have expressed interest in refugee sponsorship. MOSAIC has been meeting with local faith groups, including churches, synagogues and mosques, to help explain sponsorship and encourage their involvement. “Generally, people are enthusiastic and really wanting to help,” explained Sherman Chan, MOSAIC’s Director of Family and Settlement Services. That is why he also organized three free refugee sponsorship information sessions at MOSAIC headquarters.More than 20 people attended MOSAIC’s first session on Sept. 21 to learn more about how they could help refugees. Representatives from three Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) – Heather Macdonald from United Church of Canada, Fikre Tsehai from Canadian Lutheran World Relief, and Jennifer Mpungu from the Mennonite Central Committee – are the resource leaders for the information sessions. Fikre and Macdonald spoke at the past session.They took turns presenting information about who can become a sponsor, what responsibilities that entails, and how the sponsorship process works. The presenters explained that there are a few options for potential sponsors – an organization can apply to become a community sponsor and individuals can form a group of five to share the sponsorship responsibilities.However, the application process for both of those options can take a long time. So, presenters recommended becoming a constituent group of established SAHs, which have already signed agreements with the government.The presenters went on to describe the responsibilities of sponsors, who are tasked with helping refugees find housing and settlement support for a year, unless the refugee becomes self-sufficient before then.Sherman Chan explained that MOSAIC would be available to provide settlement support for refugees in the Vancouver area. If you’d like to learn more about how MOSAIC is helping with the refugee crisis, visit mosaicbc.org/refugees.In addition, Chan and the presenters emphasized that refugees are not just coming from Syria, but from other countries in Africa and the Middle East as well. It is important to remember that they need help too.The presentation led to a discussion, where audience members were able to voice their opinions and ask questions. Some refugees in attendance shared their moving stories, including one woman who expressed her gratitude for the help she received. She explained that she was sponsored to come to Canada at a young age and now knows English, has a job and is able to give back to Canadian society.The information session went from 3 to 5 p.m., although Chan said that attendees could have gone on longer, “which really speaks to the enthusiasm of people.”Anyone interested in attending an information session can register at sponsor-refugees.eventbrite.com. There will be an Oct. 9 session from 10 am to noon, and an Oct. 23 session from 3 to 5 p.m. at MOSAIC headquarters, 1720 Grant St.