They’re Here!

Screenshot 2016-02-16 15.45.13Walking into the lobby of the airport hotel felt a little surreal as groups of recently arrived Syrian refugees were sitting and standing together, talking about the uncertainty of their future in Canada.  There was a table set-up so that we could let the ‘system’ know we were ready to pick up the family.  We were told they were unaware we were coming, and would take a few minutes to get ready.  In the meantime, this small group of Canadians was approached by several people who were looking for information.  One man approached and said  “I’m told I’m going to Kitchener, is this place good?”  Another woman who had been there for four days asked if we could help get her phone connected to the hotels complimentary wifi.  The kids had their ‘Welcome to Canada’ signs ready, and we waited, speaking with the brave individuals who approached us asking for answers to some of their pressing questions about Canada.

Finally, this family of 4 (Father, Mother, and two young sons) came out of the elevators, we had a very quick introduction, and we helped them pull all of their possessions (three suitcases), through the snow and into the minivan.  They seemed at peace, quiet, accepting whatever short-term future these strangers were about to bestow upon them.  It wasn’t a particularly emotionally charged moment, if only because the family was very unsure about what was happening.  The information they had been given was minimal.  They weren’t sure where they were going, or who exactly these people were.

What their initial thoughts on Canada are, is a mystery.  It’s not a great day for weather, and Mississauga isn’t exactly known as one of the most beautiful places we have to offer, but we pointed the minivan towards Guelph.  The two young boys slept as the parents tried their best to communicate with us via our friend Nuhad, who was acting as translator for this first interaction.  Upon arriving at their apartment in Guelph, they seemed a bit overwhelmed, and it might be projection, but we seemed to sense a bit of relief that they had a warm house to themselves, with beds, blankets, a pantry full of food, plenty of clothing, and a teapot.  The first thing they wanted to do in this new home was an act of hospitality, offering everyone tea.  The mother of this family knows a little english, and before we left she managed to tell us: “We’re so happy!”

We’re excited about the days and weeks ahead, and will surely share more as we can about these kind people.  We haven’t posted a picture of them as we have yet to see if they are comfortable with their pictures being broadcast.  Once again, we thank you for your help to make this possible.  There is a lot to come, and updates should be a bit more forthcoming now that the team is ramped up and working to make their first weeks and months memorable in the best possible ways.

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Family/Fundraising Update

 

The food is in the pantry, the beds have been566aefcc1900002400789a4c made, the internet is working, and the closets are full of clothes.  The steps have been salted and the welcome sign is sitting upright, ready to be seen as soon as the front door opens.  All the house needs is the family.  They’re coming soon.  Exactly when we don’t know.  But soon.

The funds required to bring them here was raised months ago, and thanks to the generosity of the people of Guelph, and our friends and families (and their connections), we also have enough funds to bring a second family of four.  Once the first family is somewhat settled and we feel things are comfortable, we’ll put the paperwork through for the second family to come.  More news on that later.

In the meantime, we’re busy connecting with other locals who are doing incredible things here in Guelph.  We’re learning about Syrian culture, and all the ways we can make their first year in Canada as good as it possibly can be.

We’re excited about what’s right around the corner.

Something special is happening in Guelph…

Guelph is making the news this week.  With heads of business stepping up, and everyday people doing all they can, Guelph is standing out as a city that is going above and beyond to do something about the current crisis that we as a planet find ourselves in.

Many, many people are asking ‘How can we help?’.  Well there are many ways, and there are many groups as well that need all of us to contribute.  A website has been set up that is outlining all that is happening in this sphere in the city of Guelph.  When the families begin arriving, the work will really begin, and this will become a vital resource.

It’s now on the sidebar to the right, and is a great resource for all information regarding Guelph, and refugees:

https://refugeesponsorshipforum.wordpress.com/

Aaaaand….we’re back up!

We were able to reach our goal of sponsoring a family to come to Guelph! The response has exceeded our expectations. Rather than turn away support and d73072891_thumbnailonations, we are really excited to continue our efforts and sponsor a second family to come to Guelph!

Thank you very much for your continued support!

We are awaiting the arrival of our first sponsor family. We don’t have an arrival date yet, but you can check our website, Facebook or Twitter page for updates and stories along the way.

In the meantime, the MCC page is back up and running, hit the ‘donate money’ button to the right if you’d like to partner with us to welcome even more refugees into our community.

Big Fundraising Update!

thank-youWe officially reached our goal through MCC fundraising!  There is still a small amount of funds to be raised for the family, but the ‘official’ online support form is now gone.

Our final fundraiser will be this Sunday at the Guelph Community Santa Claus Parade (in front of the Children’s Art Factory) at the corner of London and Woolwich streets.  We will have warm drinks and snacks, so bring some change!  More info regarding that later.

We would like to say hearty Thank You to everyone who helped make this happen.  The money raising portion of this project is now drawing to an end, and the real work will begin shortly.  The paperwork is working its way through the system, and we now know a few details about the family (we will share everything as soon as we can).  We will need stuff for this family, and we will soon have more details on what exactly we need more of.

Keep up with us here, or at our facebook page, and/or twitter account as we continue this journey to help one journey come to an end.

Thanks Kalyna!

kalyna familyWe’d like to introduce an extraordinary little girl from an extraordinary Guelph family.  Kalyna wanted to do something to help, so she took to the Guelph Farmers Market with her violin and played for the crowds.  Then the next day she and her family went to the Aberfoyle market, braving very cold weather and rain.

Kalyna’s whole family helped, including her little brother who was a dedicated sign holder.  Over the two days, Kalyna raised $352 for the refugee family, and her parents even matched the donation to double it up.  THANK YOU!

The people of Guelph are creative and motivated to make a difference!  If you would like to support this project in a creative way like Kalyna did, please let us know!

Updates!

3 things to share with you today.

IMG_20151006_1657371.   We are very excited to announce that the Air Canada foundation has donated $10,000 to this cause.  This amount has yet to show up on our total on the MCC page (as of October 20th), but we’re well on our way to meeting our goal, which we’re very excited about.
2.  We have had a bit of a hiccup with some of our support that has come via paypal.  Due to the political nature of the word ‘Syria’ in the United States, paypal has rejected payments for a cause with ‘Syria’ in its name, so all our early donations from people who used paypal have been reversed.  If you gave via paypal, please consider re-sending your gift to this so that it gets counted towards the total!

10898149_10153662962273744_8321385777012227198_n3. The children of this community are stepping up to the plate and doing what they can to make a difference.  This has been an excellent opportunity to share with our kids the importance of helping those who need it, and they have really come through.  Last weekend, a group of kids gathered a bunch of books and toys and sold them, raising $102.50 towards the goal!  More initiatives are happening just like this, and we’ll tell you all about them.

Our fundraising goal is coming ever closer, with generous people from all walks of life really making a difference.  News should be coming shortly regarding the family that will, before long, be moving into our community.  Keep coming back here for more news.

How 4 kids selling cookies raised $5,054

IMG_3553On Saturday afternoon, 4 kids took to Sunny Acres park to sell some homemade cookies and muffins.  Their parents had told them about the families from a place called Syria who are looking for a new home and the kids wanted to do something, so after some time in the kitchen with their parents, they went off to the park to sell their wares.

It was a bit slow going, but one parent from the neighbourhood brought his kids and got talking to Gina, the Mom who was spearheading the project to bring a family from Syria to Guelph.  He worked at the city, and mentioned that the folks at council were looking to do something about the refugee crisis, as they, like so many others, were moved by the images of families desperate to find a safe place for their families to live.  On Monday he mentioned it to a couple of the councillors, who saw this as an opportunity for the city to do something very local.

On Tuesday night at City Council, a motion passed allocating $5,000 to the group.  Here is the Tribune article about it: http://www.guelphtribune.ca/news-story/5941258-city-pitches-in-aid-for-refugees/

Thank you to these 4 kids whose decision to do something resulted in quite a difference indeed!

The beginning of our journey. Hopefully the end of theirs.

To leave or to stay? Many Syrian and Iraqi families face that question as the conflict continues to rage around them. International humanitarian assistance is dwindling and the patchwork of resources they used to rely on is wearing thin. To leave is to risk their lives over dangerous seas and through countries hesitant to open their doors. But to stay is also a great risk.
Syrian internally displaced people walk in the Atme camp, along the Turkish border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, on March 19, 2013. The conflict in Syria between rebel forces and pro-government troops has killed at least 70,000 people, and forced more than one million Syrians to seek refuge abroad. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC        (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
As millions of families flee their homes and lives looking for safety and hope, we are choosing to take action and help. We are a group of friends and neighbours who want to open our doors and hearts to sponsor a Syrian family to come into our community of Guelph, Ontario. We believe we can and should do our part to help in this humanitarian crisis.

This is a 12 month commitment to support the family financially and emotionally. It is a commitment to be there every step of the way offering our friendship and support as they establish a new life in Canada.

How can we do this? Under Canada’s Private Refugee Sponsorship Program, citizens can join together to sponsor refugee families under a Sponsorship Agreement Holder.

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MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) has been working as a Sponsorship Agreement Holder since 1979 to sponsor refugee families who have no prospect of returning home to start a new life in Canada. While we are in no way affiliated with MCC, we can work with them in order to streamline our paperwork and fast track our ability to sponsor a family. Ultimately, this is our top priority.

Through their website we have a fund-raising page where donations can be made directly to our cause with tax receipts issued for each donation. Every dollar that is raised will go directly to the supporting of our sponsored family. There is no overhead or administrative fee.

Will you partner with us, partner with them?

Our goal is to raise $40,000 to help this family in their first year.  Click here to Donate $

They will also need stuff, like warm clothes and furniture.  Click here to donate stuff

They will also need our time, energy and expertise after they arrive!  Click here if you can give your time/energy/expertise

A Commitment to Action

Raising money is relatively easy.  Helping a family integrate into life in Canada is where a commitment to compassion is essential.  If our group successfully raises money but doesn’t support this family after they arrived, then we haven’t done our job.

We are looking for individuals who are interested in helping with the process.  This family will need emotional support, financial support, and regular old practical support.  Rides to appointments, computer lessons, financial know-how, navigating the supermarket, guelph bus routes, school system, jobs and community groups…etc. They need your help.

It takes a village.  Want to be a part of this village?  If you have something specific you know you can help with (such as “I have a van!”  or “I speak Arabic”) please email gmariewoods@gmail.com to get the ball rolling.

If you are not sure how you can help, but want to do something, please go to this link and fill it out.  There will soon be many, many Syrian families living in Guelph, and it will take a collective effort to make the transition smooth for all of them.  Our group has quite a bit of help as it is, and the other families will also need your help.

Thank You for your willingness to help.