Published on: November 14, 2015 | Last Updated: November 15, 2015 7:15 AM MST
Hundreds of Calgarians have come forward in hopes of sponsoring one of the thousands of Syrian refugees and their families expected to land on Canadian soil in the next few months.
After the launch of the Syrian refugee sponsorship project initiated by the Calgary Catholic and Immigration Society three weeks ago, over 500 Calgarians have come forward showing an interest in helping.
“What a tremendous response we’ve had. We live in a community that is so generous, with such a kind and giving heart, ” said Anoush Newman, CCIS co-ordinator with the sponsorship project.
“I am surprised, I am overwhelmed, but in such a pleasant way.”
The society has scheduled a number of private and group sponsorship sessions in Calgary over the next several weeks, providing Calgarians information and the opportunity to sponsor Syrian refugees.
The first two sessions were booked full. But spots are available next Thursday, Friday and Nov. 24 from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Calgary Public Library’s central downtown branch, basement meeting Room 1.
A sponsorship, Newman explained, would involve a one-year commitment from a Canadian family and full support with housing, food, help finding employment, accessing health care and registering children in local schools.
Sponsoring an individual would cost approximately $9,000 whether a family chooses to house the refugee themselves or help find and pay for rental accommodation. Sponsoring a family, with two adults and two children for instance, could cost as much as $20,000.
But Newman said despite the expense and the tough economic times Calgary has seen in the past year, hundreds of people are still coming forward. Some of them have family in Syria and want to bring them here, she explained. But many others are longtime Canadians who are not related to anyone in the war-torn country.
“We’ve all seen what is happening in Syria. We are all human beings, and people want to contribute in any way they can,” she said.
“The rewards of taking someone in, is to know that you have saved a soul, you have helped someone escape a horrific experience.”
Newman admits most Syrians will arrive in Canada severely traumatized, after fleeing bombing, shelling, having their homes, their businesses and their schools attacked and destroyed.
Social workers will also be available to work closely with families choosing to sponsor, Newman added, ensuring that refugees get the counselling and social support they need, particularly children who have suffered severe trauma.
Calgary is expected to take in about 10 per cent of the 15,000 to 25,000 Syrian refugees that the newly elected federal Liberal government has vowed to welcome into Canada by the end of this year.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with cabinet Thursday to discuss the logistics of getting 25,000 people here before the end of December, where they will go, and how they will be housed.
While few details were revealed, the government did acknowledge that meeting the target is a challenge and private sponsorships from Canadian households would be welcome.
There are currently about 10,000 Syrian refugee applications in the pipeline; since January, close to 6,000 have been received from private sponsors.
Newman stressed that Canadians need to remember the important contributions that refugees and immigrants have made, and continue to make in their new communities.
“They arrive with a lot of important skills. Whether they are bricklayers, doctors, engineers, they work extremely hard because they are so grateful to be here.
“And they ensure their children are very well-educated, because they are again grateful their own children have that opportunity for an education in a safe environment.”
For more information on the Syrian refugee sponsorship project go to ccisab.ca/refugees/syrian-refugees-project.
With files from Canadian Press