No doubt you have all been seeing images of the heartbreaking effects of the war in Syria and the ongoing displacement of millions of people as a result. We in the James Bay Refugee Initiative are one of the thousands of community groups in Canada who are working to do something to alleviate the suffering of refugees who wish to resettle in Canada.
Canada accepts refugees from many locations around the world. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working in countries around the world to identify and document refugees. Once they are approved by the UNHCR, one of the classifications they might receive (and one we have chosen) is Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) which would allow the sponsorship group to receive some financial support for the first year of the newcomer’s life in Canada.
These newcomers, as you will have seen on the news, will arrive with almost nothing, will often not speak much English, and will certainly have been traumatized. They will almost always be reliant on the goodwill of local Canadians to survive and thrive in their new environment for the first year.
Our current Sponsorship Agreement Holder, the organization that links the sponsorship group with the government, is ICA, the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria. We are delighted to be working closely with them and to have the benefit of their experience. We are just an ordinary group of people that passionately wants to assist a refugee to settle in Canada. We are responsible for providing housing, food and clothing, and through ICA, helping to find employment as well as assisting with language training, medical care, and navigating the bureaucracy.
Our goal for fundraising for one person is $25,000, which includes onetime costs, as well as living expenses for a year. We also hope to sponsor a refugee family, an undertaking that would require us to raise $30,000 to $50,000 depending on the size of the family.
In the past year we have held several fundraising events including the Mediterranean Dinner and Art Auction, and a benefit concert with the Bayside Big Band, also with art auction. The James Bay United Church Thrift Shop donated their entire earnings from one busy Saturday opening to the JBRI.
If you would like to help, our most urgent need is for funds, and it is very easy to donate. All the funds go to the refugee family as all our time is volunteered. Tax receipts will be provided for all donations over $10.00. If you prefer to write a cheque, it can be mailed to James Bay United Church (511 Michigan Street, Victoria, BC V8V 1S1) or dropped off at the church. There is a secure mailbox at the top of the ramp on the right side of the church if there is no one in the office. The cheque should be made out to James Bay United Church with “Refugee Sponsorship” in the memo line.
Some of our supporters have made the decision to donate to the James Bay Refugee Sponsorship as a birthday, anniversary or memorial gift. Asking friends and family for money, no matter how critical the cause, is a very uncomfortable thing to do for many of us in our group, so we thank you very much for your thoughtful consideration