It has been a quiet year while awaiting the arrival of our third (and final) Syrian family. Unfortunately, Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) notified us in August 2018 that the family we had chosen two years ago did not meet the requirements because they had returned to Syria and therefore no longer qualified as refugees. Given that it would take years to appeal this ruling, our group has decided to begin looking for another family to sponsor through the Blended Visa Office-Referred program - which means the family is pre-approved and hopefully we won’t have to wait too long for them to arrive in Canada.
We have already sponsored two refugee families through the generosity of those both in and outside the congregation. Our first family of 7 arrived in Feb. 2016, the second family of 5 in August 2016. Although FirstU is no longer responsible for these families because the year of legal sponsorship is over, we have formed many strong ties between them and the volunteers. Visits and social events are ongoing and both families have adapted well to their new Canadian life: the fathers are working hard in their full time jobs, everyone has learned basic English and the children are all enjoying school/daycare. We also worked with a Canadian Syrian family with whom we co-sponsored their relatives who arrived in September 2016. And we sent $10,000 to another UU congregation to help support a transgender refugee, whose sponsorship with a private outside group had fallen apart.
We helped two private groups from outside the congregation to settle Syrian families as well. The groups raised their own funds that FirstU managed for them. Both families arrived in December 2016. We are currently working with another external group called the Boat of Hope, whose sponsored family should be arriving sometime before winter. This family just had a new baby so a new set of forms were required by IRCC.
For the most part, settlement for all the families has gone well, although we have had some challenges helping families to budget, adjust to Canadian values, and deal with the trauma of living through war.
Volunteers have been incredibly dedicated to helping the families succeed in their new land. Volunteer teams provide all the necessary settlement support ranging from finding and furnishing accommodations, to getting children registered at school, to connecting the family to resources such as ESL and health services, to helping ease adaptation to our culture, and more.
Stay tuned for the next chapter...
The Board of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa (FUCO) agreed to allow its Refugee Working Group to raise funds both within and outside the congregation to support a Syrian refugee family. Below are the answers to some questions you may have.
If you have any questions or would like more information on our work, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions and Answers
Can I still make a donation to the FUCO fund to sponsor a Syrian refugee family?
Through the amazing generosity of many people from within and outside our congregation, we now have sufficient funds to sponsor our three families.
Other local organizations who would welcome your donations include:
United for Refugees
and settlement agencies such as:
Catholic Centre for Immigrants
Jewish Family Services.
What else is needed?
We may still need more people to give volunteer time over the course of at least a year to help settle the family in Ottawa. Tasks range from finding housing, to getting the children registered at school, to getting the family to medical appointments, to helping ease adaptation to our culture, and more. In-kind donations would also be appreciated.
Why is the FUCO doing this?
Syrian refugees desperately need help and supporting Syrian refugees is consistent with the principles of our congregation. The principles that particularly apply in our case are:
How much money is needed to sponsor a family and what does this money cover?
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) requires at least $27,000 be raised, including “in kind” donations, for a family of four – but the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC), the umbrella organization for Canadian Unitarian congregations, says that $40,000 is more realistic. The CUC also suggests that another $3,000 is needed for every additional family member.
What is the FUCO’s responsibility?
Submitting the sponsorship undertaking means the congregation is legally responsible for the financial and moral support of the refugee family for one year as the congregation helps the family integrate into Canadian society.
The congregation is not responsible for any debts the family may incur in Canada or before coming to Canada (e.g. travel loans).
There are several mechanisms by which a refugee family can be sponsored in Canada. What one will we use?
We will be applying under the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) mechanism. In our case, the holder of the Sponsorship Agreement is the CUC. Approval of sponsorship applications is faster when a SAH is involved. Our family will be identified from a government list of approved Syrian refugees under what is called the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program (BVOR). Choosing a refugee family from this list entitles the congregation to some financial help for the family from the federal government.
When will the family arrive in Ottawa?
Families sponsored from the approved list take about 2 – 4 months to arrive from the time the government approves our sponsorship application. This application includes information on how costs will be covered, a settlement plan and the role of volunteers.
-We currently have one family that has arrived and are settling in.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!
SPIRITUAL HOME CAMPAIGN 2018
To the casual observer, our church building may look to be in good shape, but a careful look shows a need for a few updates. The Spiritual Home Campaign seeks to address this need. You can download the campaign brochure in PDF format here.
Details About the Campaign
One project, installation of a monitor in Fellowship Hall, has already been completed, thanks to the generous support of Rev. Len. If you also would like to take on responsibility for an entire project, please contact the campaign team at email@example.com.
Donors are encouraged to direct their gift to whatever campaign project motivates them, but can also have their contribution used for whichever project needs it most.
Once donations have fully accumulated towards a project’s estimated cost, the project item and its funding are added to the operating budget, to trigger the start of that project. If a project doesn’t receive its full funding during the campaign this year, its donations will be rolled forward to next year’s Spiritual Home campaign. Conversely, a project may receive more donations than it requires; surplus donations would be redirected to other appropriate projects. Details about the identified campaign projects:
All first two tiers fully funded!
Install a security system ($7000)
A camera-equipped security system would help to protect those in the building (staff, volunteers and renters) during off-peak usage.
Fix several windows in Worship Hall ($5,000)
Some of the “openable” windows no longer open, preventing natural ventilation. Replacing each window will cost about $1000 each.
Refurbish front doors ($2,000)
The front doors need resurfacing, and also some refurbishment for ease of opening/closing.
Air conditioning for Fellowship Hall ($5,000)
Fellowship Hall can become uncomfortably warm in the summer or during crowded gatherings. Appropriately-sized wall units are anticipated.
Refinish floors in Worship Hall, Fellowship Hall and the Volunteer Room ($6,000)
This project has been delayed for many years. Our Congregation and our renters should expect a venue that reflects our care and pride.
Install efficient lighting ($6,000)
More efficient lighting for Worship Hall, offices, and the exterior.
Exterior painting 1/4 building ($9,000)
Paint or stain as appropriate. Any window caulking that is needed is also done at the same time.
Install Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) ($2,000)
One never knows when an emergency will occur. Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, even those with no prior symptoms. In such an emergency, an on-site AED can start helping before the ambulance arrives.
Sound system upgrade ($6,000)
Our sound and light technician will advise us on the best system that meets our needs.
Replace toilets ($4,000)
Nine toilets have been identified by the Property and Grounds team as due for replacement.