Local groups, residents interested in privately sponsoring refugees
Published Thursday, November 19, 2015 6:14PM EST Last Updated Thursday, November 19, 2015 6:29PM EST
Planning is well underway in Ottawa in anticipation of hundreds of refugees arriving here.
Two meetings are set for next week to help residents interested in sponsoring refugees to navigate the system. The first ‘Sponsorship 101’ meeting is Monday in Kanata, with a few spots left.
The one Tuesday in Kitchissippi ward is already so packed, they had to revise their plans.
Then, there are dozens of neighborhood sponsorship groups plowing ahead.
One such neighbourhood group is called the Fraser group, so named because the group started with a couple of neighbors along Fraser Avenue in Ottawa wondering what they could do to help.
‘We both said, yeah, why aren't we doing this and it just started like that,’ says Terry Smutylo, who is spearheading the Fraser Group. It has snowballed. The group of 38 contributors now quickly surpassed its goal of $30-thousand and just today was made aware of a potential Syrian family of 6.
Smutylo has some experience with this. He helped sponsor a Vietnamese family 35 years ago and says there is a groundswell of people in Ottawa interested in helping; they just don't know how.
‘The people I talked to are just so thankful someone is picking it up and moving it forward,’ says Smutylo, ‘so they have a chance to participate because it's a bit intimidating.’
That's where Refugee 613 comes in. With the help of several city councillors, and the Coalition in Ottawa for Refugees, they are organizing workshops to give people the basics on private sponsorship.
Louisa Taylor is the director of Refuge 613, ‘The goal is to give people ‘Sponsorship 101,’ the basics of what's involved and how do I form a group,’ says Taylor, ‘the hope is like-minded people will congregate and in the same neighborhood naturally form groups and we can give them advice.’
The interest here in sponsoring refugees is huge. The meetings Monday in Kanata and Tuesday in Kitchissippi will be packed.
‘I think our community, I think Canadians have wanted to do good for a long time and they are getting the opportunity and are exercising it,’ says Carl Nicholson, with the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, one of several sponsorship agreement holders in Ottawa.
A couple thousand refugees are expected here and planning is ramping up in anticipation.
Medical ‘hubs’ are being set up in preparation for a multitude of health issues among the refugees both physical and mental.
‘A highly skilled group of people are looking at what is the best approach for people coming in,’ says Jack McCarthy with the Somerset West Community Health Centre, ‘so that we are attentive to the fact that this is a highly traumatized group.’
The Fraser Group is getting ready, too, anticipating their family in perhaps a couple of months.
More public workshops for Sponsorship 101 are in the works. Louisa Taylor suggests people interested -- check out the refugee 613 website for details at www.refugee613.ca