SRRC set to sponsor three Syrian families

Fundraising campaign comfortably exceeds expectations

The Sackville Refugee Response Coalition (SRRC) has raised over $100,000 to sponsor the resettlement of three Syrian families in Sackville.

According to Blended-Visa Office Referred (BVOR), which matches refugees with private Canadian sponsors, the sponsorship of a family costs approximately $30,000. The SRRC’s initial goal was to fundraise enough to sponsor one displaced family by the end of December. Within a day of launching their fundraising campaign in November, the coalition had reached its initial target of $30,000.

John Perkin, Mount Allison chaplain and chair of the SRRC steering committee, said the coalition is made up of individuals who wanted to establish a local response to the international refugee crisis. “When the initial images of Alan Kurdi – that little boy who drowned on the seashore – were suddenly hitting the news, a lot of people were talking about what we could do,” said Perkin. “We wanted to make a response to a global tragedy.”

Following the fundraising campaign’s initial success, it surpassed the $60,000 mark in early December. Weeks later, a young family in Sackville donated the funds to support a third family. Perkin said that while the SRRC is no longer focused on fundraising, the coalition might consider supporting a fourth family if donations continue to come in.

The SRRC is made up of over 100 active volunteers from the community, which includes students. The volunteers have been organized into over 10 committees that are mandated to oversee specific components of the settlement process. The focus of these committees ranges from ensuring clothing will be made available to assisting with integration into the school system.

The arrival date of the families is uncertain. The applications to support the three families are currently being processed by Citizen and Immigration Canada. Due to the backlog of applications, the SRRC is anticipating a six-to-eight-week wait before the families start to arrive.

Once a family has been approved for placement in Sackville, the Welcome Committee provides immediate and ongoing assistance for the families during their initial month of transition. Diane and David Fullerton, co-chairs of the Welcome Committee, said they will be at the airport to pick up the families as they arrive. Following the initial welcome, the committee is responsible for orienting the family in their home and into the community.

“Something we all have to realize is that they might not stay, and I think that’s fine if they find another place that suits them better,” said Diane Fullerton. “Our mandate is to get them here, make them feel comfortable, welcome them the best way we possible can and then it’s their decision after that.”

The SRRC will work with the federal government to support the families for the first year. The SRRC is legally responsible for paying the start-up costs and funding the family for the initial month. The federal government will assist from months two to seven, and the SRRC is responsible for providing support for the remainder of the year.

The Fullertons said the coalition has helped unify and strengthen a sense of community in Sackville. “It’s bringing together the churches, the university, the community, young, old—its bringing us together,” said David Fullerton. “It’s a nice feeling.”

On the afternoon of Feb. 7, the SRRC will be hosting a public event to celebrate the support that has been fostered in Sackville. The event’s location is yet to be determined, but all are welcome.

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