Port Alberni could soon be the new home of two international refugee families. A small group of volunteers have formed two different, yet parallel sponsorship groups to help bring in the families and ensure a smooth resettlement process.
The two groups are the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR), which receives partial funding from the government, and the Private Referral Sponsorship, based on applications from private individuals or groups willing to fund refugees in Canada. An agreement with Canada Immigration allows Sponsorship Agreement Holders and their Constituent Groups (community sponsors) approval to help refugees in their transition to new cities. In Port Alberni, the Anglican Diocese holds the title.
Pamela Day is spearheading Port Alberni's BVOR, but is working closely with Michele Fraser and her goal of private sponsorship.
"We are a group of concerned citizens from all walks of life," Day said. "Some of us are from the church and others are not."
By receiving partial sponsorship from the Canadian government, Day said that will cover 50 per cent of living expenses for the first six months for the family.
"It allows us to get going quickly," Day said. "The BVOR group will receive a family deemed most in need."
Private referrals have the option of specifying who they would like to sponsor.
The process is tedious and has already taken many volunteer hours. Day and her group started in September with the paperwork after hearing a speech about the Syrian crisis.
"Bruce Bryant Scott came from the Anglican Diocese in Victoria and told the community about the boy found on the beach," Day said. "People signed up and the group was formed."
From there, each volunteer had to undergo a criminal record check, ensure they were capable of working with vulnerable people and commit to fundraising.
Although approved, a formal application is yet to be submitted after a training session this Saturday and final arrangements will be made through the Trinity Anglican and Lutheran Church.
"We haven't gone out to the community yet to say what we need," Day said. "A lot of it has been word of mouth."
Even so, the group has raised about $7,000 to date. In order to support a family for one year, a recommended $20,000 to $25,000 is needed.
"We will need to find housing, clothing, household items and give them a means of integrating into the Valley," Day said. "They will need to learn the language, culture, get their kids into schools and all the things needed to get settled in a new place."
Day said she understands there is some angst in the community about the issue, but feels there is more support than criticism. She is also encouraged by the offers of help from experts in various fields like teaching English as a Second Language.
"I am excited," she said. "This is the year we have to stretch a little farther to help people from other countries, so that might mean giving up a latte or making a monthly contribution."
She said it is important for her to reach out to others and give back.
"I do it because it is important to do," Day said. "I have had a good life. Most people born here appreciate the life we have. There are no wars and we take care of our poor. Most of us (in the group) see this and are doing both this and helping locally."
A fundraiser is being organized for mid-December in partnership with the Sikh Society. Watch for details posted on our event listings. For information on how to help, contact Pamela Day at firstname.lastname@example.org or Leslie Wright at email@example.com or check out www.parsc.ca.