Wanted: Anglicans to sponsor refugee families
Anglican parishes have until March 31 to benefit from a special refugee sponsorship arrangement between the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and the Government of Canada. Parishes who sponsor families through the 50 Refugee Families Sponsorship Project will receive an average of $4,000 in seed money, depending on family size. These funds will help offset the costs of supporting a refugee family for a year, costs that private sponsors must cover.
So far 41 refugee families have been matched up with Anglican sponsors through this program, said Suzanne Rumsey, PWRDF's public engagement coordinator. She notes that many arrangements are possible, including joint ecumenical efforts. In Kaslo, B.C., several denominations teamed up to welcome a Colombian family of four in Sept. 2009.
The 50 families program was developed in 2009 by the network of 18 PWRDF diocesan refugee coordinators, who suggested it as a way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of PWRDF, the Anglican Church of Canada's agency for sustainable development, relief, refugees, and global justice. Other 50th anniversary celebrations included the 50 leaders program and Le Tour de PWRDF.
Ms. Rumsey said that PWRDF's original goal was to bring 50 refugee families to Canada by the end of 2010, but the organization faced several obstacles, including PWRDF staff restructuring. Now the push is on to fill the remaining nine spaces for refugee families to be matched with Anglican sponsors before March 31, when the agreement ends.
"Ultimately it is a big commitment to ensure the care of a family for a year," said Ms. Rumsey. "There's a very large measure of thanks that needs to go out to the sponsoring parishes or communities. From what we hear it's a wonderful experience."
Sponsors not only provide financial support, they also help refugees adjust to life in Canada. This includes arranging housing, schooling for children, English as a Second Language classes, and medical appointments.
As a national body, PWRDF provides some technical support in communicating with the government and also provides a handbook for sponsoring groups. Most support, however, is offered locally, through one of the 18 dioceses that hold refugee sponsorship agreements with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Ms. Rumsey emphasizes that whatever the challenges, refugee sponsorship is a deeply Christian endeavour.
"The Bible story is the story of migration from beginning to end," she said. "It's so clear throughout Biblical literature that we're called to welcome strangers. There's no ambiguity about this. It's at the heart of who we are, who we're called to be, and what we're called to do."
Anglican communities interested in sponsoring a refugee family can email Suzanne Rumsey, PWRDF's public engagement coordinator, or call her at (416) 924-9199 ext. 267.
Read success stories from the 50 Refugee Families Sponsorship Project: