[code] [/code] Riverdale Refugee Lifeline

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Toronto Star Interviews our Family About Long Wait to Come to Canada


The Toronto Star's Catherine Porter recently reported on the long waits that Syrian refugees are facing to come to Canada.

The family to which our groups has been matched is one of those Ms. Porter spoke to for her story.

Our family is the second one mentioned and not the one pictured.

Click the link below to read the story.

Syrian Refugees Wait Months to Come to Canada: Porter

Riverdale Refugee Lifeline Pushes Gov't to Bring More Syrians Faster

Members of Riverdale Refugee Lifeline have recently been in touch with Julie Dabrusin, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth, to discuss our concerns about the abrupt slowdown in the processing of Syrian refugees since Feburary..

That's when the government reached it's self-defined goal of bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.  

Having done so, the government pulled its personnel from the Middle East and drastically cut back on the number of employees processing refugee claims at its Winnipeg offices.

In a letter to Ms. Dabrusin, and in a follow-up meeting on April 22, our members pressed for a resumption of the emergency response to the Syrian crisis.  

We emphasized that Syrian refugees should not be counted among the government's normal refugee numbers, but should be over and above, to reflect the special situation faced by Syrians in light of the horrific war in that country--and so that refugees from other countries would not be disadvantaged by a special effort to assist Syrians.

We told her that our family has been waiting months in Lebanon since being matched to our group, awaiting only their final interview before being brought to Canada.  Neither we nor the family know when that will take place.  The government appears to be saying it could be a year or longer.  We asked for greater speed and greater transparency in the process.

Ms. Dabrusin responded by providing us a letter she has written to John McCallum, the Minister of Immigration and Refugees, which you can read below, or by clicking here for a larger version.

The wait continues.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Waiting Game

By Piali Roy 

We are caught up in a waiting game. 

Our group was matched to a Syrian refugee family in mid-February, but since the federal government reached the goal of bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada by early 2016, the process has slowed considerably.

The family’s application is currently “in process”.  Medical reports have been completed, but the family is waiting for the Canadian visa office to conduct the required interviews.  

We have no word yet on a date for those interviews--or for the family's arrival in Canada. In March, we were told it could be an eight or nine-month wait. We were assured that families who were already being processed, like ours, would arrive sometime in 2016! 

Now, after much public protest, Immigration Minister John McCallum has announced that offices handling Syrian refugee applications in Lebanon and Winnipeg will have their staffing increased in a bid to speed up the process.  

Good news, but again, we have no concrete information on the speed of change. 

Mr. McCallum has said the wait will be longer than three months.We appreciate the ongoing support and patience from everyone who has donated to or supported our project.  

If we are frustrated, just think how it feels to be in Beirut, waiting to hear back from the government. 

More On Our Family

By Henna Agha

When we were matched with a refugee family, we didn't know what to expect. 

Other families that have been matched with sponsorship groups have run a broad gamut of situations, language and professional skills, so we truly had no idea what to expect. We were so pleasantly surprised! 

Our family consists of six people: two grandparents, their son, daughter, son-in-law and six year old granddaughter.  Our family members are educated professionals.  Several members speak English; all are counting the days til they can come here and start a new life.

As soon as we were matched, we sent the family a letter from our group, and immediately got a response.  

What a response it was! Our family was so excited, grateful and overwhelmed to be connected with a sponsorship group.  

They connected with us by email, whattsapp, and we have had a couple of Skype calls. They are lovely people, and it comes across right away in the warmth with which they communicate. They say over and over that they have a new family in Canada now. 
Aleppo, Syria
They are living under very tenuous conditions in Lebanon after having fled their hometown of Aleppo, Syria several years ago.  

Lebanon recently changed the laws to make it impossible for Syrian refugees to find legal employment.  Hiring Syrians is banned. Many refugees are forced to work under the table and at very minimal salaries.  Our family is doing whatever is necessary to survive. 

Despite this precarious situation, which could change for the worse at any moment, they are positive and hopeful. They are ready to come to Canada now! All their questions of us have to do with timing. When, when can they come?? They have gone the extra step of submitting their professional credentials to Canadian authorities for evaluation so they will know what they are going to have to do to work here in their professions.

They've told us they do 'google tours' of Toronto, to get to know their adopted city,

They're practicing their English, and reading as much as they can about life in Canada. If we told them they were getting on a plane in a week, they would be overjoyed. When we conveyed to them the disappointing news that the process to get them here would potentially drag on, we also reiterated our commitment to them.  

This is what I will tell you. Our goals, our commitment, to bring this new family to Canada has not changed. Despite the fact that this process is dragging on interminably, we are 100% ready to support this family and their transition to Canada. They, and we, cannot wait to meet each other in person.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Matched! To a Family of Six!

This past September, a bunch of neighbours and friends got together, hoping to make a difference.

After nearly six months, it has finally happened. 

Our group, Riverdale Refugee Lifeline, has been matched with a Syrian family of six, currently living in Beirut. The family consists of three generations--grandparents, their son, daughter, son-in-law and six year-old granddaughter. We couldn’t be happier!

It’s been a bit of a journey for us, and a learning curve as well.

Last fall, we partnered with Eastminister United Church, so that our donors could receive tax receipts. We attended Lifeline Syria meetings to learn more and eventually received training from a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) named AURA, with whom we shared our settlement plan for the family. 

We held meetings, divided ourselves up into committees and took on the tasks of getting ready for the family--finding housing and furniture, looking into English language education, job programs, schools, medical clinics and more. In the new year, our application was transferred from AURA to the United Church of Canada and we were assigned a case worker.

By this time, we had moved away from the idea of a simple private sponsorship (where we would cover the costs of the family for one year) to a special government category that involved people who had no connection to Canada (here the government would cover half the costs and we would cover the other half for the family's first year in the country).

Then came the chaos! A small part of our group had to commit to being online during working hours in case a refugee family profile was offered and decide whether the group would accept the family or not.

The first profile came and went before we fully understood how the system worked. We decided to forego sponsoring a Syrian couple, since we had raised enough money to support a larger family. We missed another family when we chose to have a quick phone call to discuss the case among ourselves, and another group accepted them quickly. Things were moving faster than we ever expected.

Next, we heard the government had decided to pause the release of such family profiles. We weren’t sure what would happen next, but heard that the United Church of Canada had many cases of families with friends or family already in Canada, who were looking to be privately sponsored. So we returned to our original goal and found out about the family of six with whom we have now been matched.

Now that all the paperwork has been completed and the forms have been signed and submitted to the Centralized Processing Office in Winnipeg, the family has its very own Government of Canada processing number.
Now each family member must have an interview with the Canadian Visa Office and undergo both medical and security checks. 

We don't have any firm grasp yet on exactly when they will arrive. We’ve heard it could be as early as 2-4 weeks to a few months to six months! The government will be slowing down the arrival of Syrian refugees at the end of February, but we have been told we will not be too affected by that. Fingers crossed!

With the help of our donors, we have raised more than enough money to support the family for twelve months as required as private sponsors. In fact, we think we will have money left over to help support another family!

We did it - we surpassed our goal!!

Thanks to you, weve raised $73,500, well over our fundraising goal of $60,000.  Thanks to everyone who contributed a donation, large or small.  

With the funds we now have on hand, we're very confident that we will be able to comfortably sponsor our Syrian family for their first year in Canada.  Special thanks to the students and staff of Riverdale's Frankland School, who raised thousands of dollars for our fund (see stories below for some of the details).

Having reached our fundraising goal, we are now suspending our campaign to raise money.  However, please note that there are still some household items that we are seeking for our family, which lie outside the scope of our budget.  

To make a donation of one or more of these items, please click on the "Donate Items" button on the right side of the page.

From all of us at Riverdale Refugee Lifeline, thanks again!

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Frankland Concert Drive Raises $1,200 More!

Frankland Holiday Concert
Frankland School's Holiday Concert raises
more than $1,200 for new Canadians.
Frankland School continues to amaze us with their support for Canada's refugee initiative. At three holiday concerts on December 16 and 17, a group of Grade 6 students took a few moments to describe Frankland Lifeline--a school club committed to understanding the world refugee crisis and taking action to help. 

The speech, researched and written by the students themselves, explained in plain terms the causes and effects of refugee crises, with an emphasis on the current situation in Syria. They put Canada's response in historical context, outlining highlights and lowlights of Canada's immigration practices in the past. 

The students closed their presentation by inviting the audience to donate any loose change or small bills to Riverdale Refugee Lifeline, as Santa Hats circulated through the room.  The three short speeches raised $1,269.80.

Thank you, Frankland!