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Wesley/Sunset Refugee Sponsorship Project Group

Update #7 - November 2016

Regina Refugee Project Makes Progress

Regina Multi-Forum Forum Refugee Sponsorship Committee reported on Nov 7, 2016 that the Committee applied to sponsor a family through the family stream under the license of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina, who are Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) and therefore authorized to undertake this process. 

After accumulating donations from various faith groups and individual members (total to date $31,000) they proceeded to select and submit the application, which went into process in Lebanon in March. 

The family is from Syria presently living in a camp in Lebanon. They are: Naif and His Wife Amoun and their daughter Hilala and her two young children, Talal and Shaima. 

They have relatives already living in Regina and other relatives in Jordan, who are being sponsored by another local group.

Naif and his wife have been approved to come to Regina but the application for their daughter Hilala and her children is still in process. 

As a result Naif will stay in Lebanon until Hilala is approved as it would be very risky to leave her alone with her two young children. 

The committee hopes the whole family may still be able to arrive in Regina in 2016.

They are continuing, fundraising because they are concerned that the monies raised needs also to cover the cost of travel. 

Co-chair Jeremy Parnes thanks the committee for working tirelessly to insure the most successful outcome possible.

- Multi-Faith Saskatchewan News, November 19, 2016 Issue 1 No. 1

Update #6 - October 2016

Thanks to the efforts of Kathy Blais, Cheghaf Madarati  and the Madarati families in Regina and Mersin, Turkey, we have moved one step forward in this journey.

Having made the decision in June to move to the Community Sponsorship program, there was a whole new set of paperwork to complete. The package was sent to Citizenship and Immigration in Winnipeg in early September. Shortly thereafter, the entire package was returned to Kathy Blais. Fortunately, the additional documents requested were easy to fulfill. So the precious file is now being processed in Winnipeg.

We understand that the waiting period for the Madarati families will be up to eight months.

The media coverage of conditions in Aleppo (the Madaratis’ home city and in Turkey are very distressing. Considering that the Madarati families escaped to Turkey in 2012, their wait is monumental compared to ours as a sponsoring group. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mona and Ahmed and their family and with Mohamed and Hanaa as they anticipate the approval of their refugee status.

Our keen enthusiasm last fall and the amazing generosity of Wesley and Sunset people, we filled a garage with household items for the Madarati families. One person generously volunteered her garage for storage. It is understandable that she would like her garage back for the winter.

So this is the question: Does anyone have an empty garage or have contacts in the moving and storage industry? If so, please contact Karen Stoddart.

A Sudanese refugee family who live in the Wesley neighbourhood may be able to use some of the household items that have been collected. This will assist the family and will reduce storage costs if we are forced to pay for storage.

We are still accepting new pledges for financial donations and volunteer help.

Thank you, Wesley and Sunset and your friends for coming together to meet this important challenge.

Submitted by Sharon Hurd On behalf the Refugee Sponsorship Organizing group
CaraGay Driscoll (Sunset), Linda Paul, and Kathy Blais


Update #5 - July 2016

We are very close to completing all the required forms and documents in regards to the refugee sponsorship.  It is time consuming as each member over 19 years of age requires separate forms.  One error or omission can take up to a month to correct.

We did not expect to be responsible for all the paper work, but, nevertheless, are going ahead with it on our own.  We have support from the Refugee Sponsorship Program in Toronto.  They have been very responsive to our questions and needs.  Kathy Blais from Wesley United Church has taken on this task.  We are grateful for her diligence.

We continue working with the Madarati family in Regina to sponsor their family from Syria, now living in Turkey.
In Regina:  Zakariya Madarati , his wife, Douha Yakti and their daughters Cheghaf Madarati and Muhjah Madarati
In Mersin, Turkey:  Mona Madarati (Zakariya’s sister), her husband, Ahmad, 3 daughters Sana (22), Tasmeen (19), Sedra(17) and one son Abdulkarim (12)
In Istanbul, Turkey: Mohamad Madarati (brother of Mona and Zakariya) and his wife Hanna Kassas

Expected arrival is 8 months after all the forms and documents have been submitted.

The United Church of Canada have informed us that they will not be our Sponsorship Agreement Holder, as they have reached their quota.

We have sent a motion to Wesley United Church Council for Wesley United Church to apply for private refugee sponsorship as a Community Sponsor.

We continue to ask for your thoughts, prayers and support for our committee and for the Madarati family.

Sharon Hurd, Linda Paul, Kathy Blais, CaraGay Driscoll
On behalf of the Wesley/Sunset Sponsorship Group


Update #4 - March 2016

First, we want to thank you for your donations of time and funding, your interest, moral support and concern. All of this has been invaluable and has made our Wesley/Sunset sponsorship possible. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

We have not received any potential refugee families from the United Church of Canada’s national office since January.  We are now pursuing the “Family Links Initiative” program.  The paper work is still pending.

The following is an update on two families we have chosen to link with.  They are relatives of a family currently living in Regina.

In Regina:

Zakariya Madarati and his wife, Douha Yakti and their daughter, Cheghaf Madarati came to Canada as refugees fifteen years ago.  For the last eleven years, they have resided in Regina.  Zakariya and Douha teach at the Huda School in Regina.  Cheghaf is a third year medical student at the University of Saskatchewan.

They very much want their relatives to join them here in Regina.  They registered the following two families under the Family Links Initiatives Program:

Ahmed Fattal and Mona Madarati are the parents of three daughters and one son who are waiting to come to Regina under the sponsorship of Mona’s brother (Zakariya Madarati) here in Regina and the Wesley/Sunset sponsorship project.

The family of six along with Mona’s brother, Mohamed and his wife, Hanaa, will come to Regina this summer.  They are expected to arrive in July.  Currently, they live in Mersin, Turkey after fleeing from Syria.

The Wesley/Sunset Refugee Sponsorship group is working with Mona Madarati and Zakariya Madarati under the Family Links Initiative Program. The initiative was announced by the Citizenship and Immigration Minister – John McCallum on February 18, 2016.  Within a few days, we found a sponsorship match with the Madarati families.

In Mersin, Turkey: (the family of six)

Mona Madarati is Zakariya’s sister and has practiced dentistry in Syria for 30 years.  Her husband, Ahmad, is a certified translator.  They have three daughters - Sana (22), Tasmeen (19), Sedra (17) and one son Abdulkarim (12).  Sana and Tasmeen are university students.  Sedra is in grade 11 and Abdulkarim is in grade 6.

In Mersin, Turkey: (the family of two)

Mohamad Madarati is the brother of Mona and Zakariya.  Mohamad is an Agricultural Engineer and his wife, Hanna Kassas has high school education.

The two families have been refugees living in Turkey since 2012.

Following is an excerpt from a letter we received from Ahmad Fattal.

“When the armed struggles started in our city, Aleppo, my roof became an important shooting centre for the regime armed forces, so that we all spent so many days and nights in horror; some nights we couldn’t sleep at all, and the apartments of our neighbours were destroyed. This, in fact, obliged us to leave our apartment to live with our relatives for a few weeks.  However, due to the lack of security and safety, we decided to leave our country for Turkey.  It was an extremely difficult and hard decision to make, but we wanted to flee before any of us get randomly arrested, damaged, raped or killed. The main reason for seeking refuge was and is still the safety of our children, who are the most important people for my wife and me.

After we left Syria, our apartment was destroyed.

So, I am sorry to say that nowadays, we are homeless, jobless and even we don’t have any income.

That’s why, we are trying and doing our best to find a place where we can humanly live in, and be dealt with like respectful human beings, not just beasts. We don’t need more than a dignified, normal human lives.”

The co-chairs of the Wesley/Sunset Sponsorship Group met with Zakariya’s family on February 27th.  Since that time, we have been researching the policies of Private Sponsorship and discussing the sharing of responsibilities needed for the sponsorship. We are arranging meetings with the family and the Team Leaders in the next six to 8 weeks.  These meetings will provide an opportunity for people to meet each other, to clarify the needs of the refugee family and to form an agreement for the sponsorship.

The Wesley/Sunset Refugee Sponsorship Group is grateful for the tremendous support you have given to this endeavour. Pledges have now totalled $51,000.00.  Donations amounting to half this amount have already been received.

Seventy people have volunteered to help with the many tasks involved. To date, many volunteer hours have been contributed. We have 12 teams who will carry out tasks, related to: Reception, Orientation, Grocery and Food, Health Needs, Transportation, Housing, Clothing, Furniture and Household Goods, Friendship and Emotional Support, Employment, Schools and Learning, and Language.

We especially want to thank the people of Wesley United Church and Sunset United Church for your generous support of this project.  As Co-chairs, we also want to acknowledge the tremendous support of the Wesley Church Council and the Wesley Church staff.

We encourage you to keep in touch.  We are posting updates on the Wesley United Church website: www.wesleyuc.sk.ca

Thank you for joining in this life-changing experience for the Madarati families and for all of us as we move forward into this partnership.

We ask for your thoughts and prayers as the Madarati families face the challenge of waiting in difficult conditions in Turkey.

Kathy Blais
CaraGay Driscoll
Sharon Hurd
Linda Paul
On behalf of the Wesley/Sunset Sponsorship Group


Update #3 - February 2016

Here is an update on our journey toward sponsoring refugees.

For the past four weeks, the United Church of Canada has not received any family profiles for Syrian refugees. The Canadian government has reached its goal of taking in 25,000 refugees, as of this week. So at this time the Blended Visa Office Referral Program has been suspended. That is the jointly funded program we were applying for whereby the government would cover 40% and we would cover 60% of the sponsorship costs for up to one year.

In early February, we did notify the UCC that we would consider Private Sponsorship where we would cover 100% of the sponsorship costs for up to one year. The Wesley Church Council gave their support to this option. However, once again, the UCC did not have family profiles from the Canadian government to send to us and the other congregations waiting to sponsor.

This past Monday, Kathy Blais found out about the new Family Links program that was announced by the Immigration Minister John McCallum on February 18. Through this program, Syrians who are already in Canada can get matched up with community sponsors to bring other family members to Canada. Kathy’s information led us to having contact with the Catholic Cross Cultural Centre in Toronto. Within hours of contacting the Centre, we had a list of five families with family members living in Regina.

Fast forward to yesterday. We met with the family in Regina to discuss a potential partnership. It was an excellent meeting. We realized, though, that there are a few issues where we need more information about this form of sponsorship. We need to know if the travel costs will be provided by the Government. We need to know more details about the process. We hope to have answers by the end of this week.  Then we will be in a position to propose the terms of the partnership and to seek the agreement with the family here in Regina. If this moves forward in the way we are hoping it will, the family members will arrive in about four months. We hope to be in a position in the next week or so to report the details about the family we will sponsor.

We want to thank the congregations of Wesley and Sunset for your support and patience. We realize this is taking more time than we first imagined. We realize, too, that our uncertainty pales when one considers the financial and emotional losses the refugee families are experiencing.

We ask for your thoughts and prayers for the family members in Regina and the family members in Turkey.


Update #2 - January 2016

So Much Has Happened…So Little Time!!

#1   Refugee Selection
We are still waiting for our family or interconnected family. On January 25, we were offered an interconnected family of twelve (1 family of 6, 1 family of 5, 1 single woman). After much thought and feedback from folks, we realized that a smaller family or interconnected family of 6 to 8 persons would be more suitable. We have also advised the United Church of Canada Refugee Coordinator that we may be open to Private Sponsorship and have asked her to send us information on PSR and to forward both PSR and Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) cases to us as they become available.

#2 Criminal Record Checks  
We have just recently learned that Criminal Record Checks are required for all of the volunteers working with our family. Each volunteer must visit the second floor of the Police Station where you will need two pieces of I.D.  (one of which includes your photo and birthdate). We are preparing a letter on Wesley letterhead that you will need to take with you. These letters will be available on Sunday January 31 at Wesley and Sunset. If you live outside Regina, you need to go to your local police station.  Please arrange to have your Criminal Record Check completed by February 15.  NOTE: Even if you have a Criminal Record Check for another activity, you will require one specifically for this project.

#3 Housing Search
The financial guidelines require that we find housing that is affordable within the income guidelines for the size of family/families we sponsor. We are searching for suitable housing leads. If you know of real estate agents or others who might direct us to potential rental properties, please contact us. The housing cost guidelines in Saskatchewan are reflected in the following example for a family of four consisting of two adults and two children. The rental allowance plus the eligible supplement because of the two children amounts to $711 plus $305 (max)
totaling $1016. The overall income allowance for such a family will amount to approximately $2126 plus actual cost of utilities and $30 for telephone. 

 #4 Team Leaders Event-- January 24, 2016
A huge thank you to the 21 folks who attended the Team Leaders Event last Sunday. The twelve volunteer teams share their Team Plans with each other. We had time to clarify plans, identify duplications, overlapping and missing tasks. In two hours we got to know each other and figured out ways we can work together. The Team Plans reflected so much time and effort that has already gone into preparing for our family. So many great ideas and lots of networking came out of that session. An Event summary will be sent to all of the Team Leaders.

#5 Regina Open Door Society Session -- January 26, 2016
Eight volunteers from Wesley and Sunset attended a one hour orientation session at the Open Door Society Office. We were joined by volunteers from Christ the King/St. Martin’s Roman Catholic Parish and some private sponsors. The presentation was most helpful and allowed time for questions. And we had lots of questions! Regina Open Door (RODS) will be a key resource for our family from Day One. For example, they will assess the children for schooling, assist with language assessment and learning, provide life skills sessions on Saturdays. RODS is an ongoing resource for our volunteers as we come up with new questions.

#6 Regina Multi-Faith Forum Refugee Sponsorship

In the last few days, RMFF has announced that their Refugee Sponsorship Project is moving forward. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina has agreed to be the Sponsorship Agreement Holder. Wesley United Church Congregation has contributed $5,000 to the RMFF Sponsorship Program. This money is over and above the pledges and donations that have been committed to the Wesley/Sunset Refugee Sponsorship Project. The RMFF project is an opportunity to meet and volunteer with people from a broad range of faith groups in Regina.  They are inviting volunteers and financial donations. Please contact: Dwaine Dornan or Carolyn McBean.

#7 Generosity of Giving
Over $50,000 has been pledged to date by more than 100 donors from Wesley, Sunset and Friends. Eighty plus volunteers have already put in many hours. We express deep gratitude to all.  

#7 Amazing Grace
It is humbling and inspiring when we consider the generosity and compassion that has been generated in the past sixteen weeks or so. In another three to sixteen weeks, we may be welcoming our newcomers. We will experience joy, excitement, lots of work and likely some challenges. Grant us the grace to provide a welcoming and compassionate transition to people who have been through things we will never be able to imagine. What an opportunity to learn from each other and our newcomers as we move through this process together.

Coming soon!! 

Watch for Refugee Sponsorship Reports and Updates on www.wesleyuc.sk.ca
Need more information? Please contact CaraGay Driscoll (Sunset) 306 352-7931 or Sharon Hurd (Wesley) 306 347-9993.  Linda Paul, our third Co-Chair will be away for February. Bon Voyage, Linda! Thank you, Linda, for all the phone calls made and information gathered. Your enthusiasm is amazing! 
Another helpful resource is the website www.rstp.ca  This is a training website put up by the Government to train all levels of people dealing with refugees.

A Reflection
Here are some words CaraGay shared with the Team Leaders at the Event held on Sunday, January 24:

“Closing blessing – excerpts from an essay by Mary Jo Letty who has been welcoming asylum seekers to Romero House in Toronto for 25 years.  The article is a “reminder of why we are doing what we are doing…and a reminder to enjoy the journey. They looked to Mary Jo Leddy for tips and suggestions.  

But she surprised them.  Instead of providing an inventory of ‘dos and dont's' pre-arrival preparations and cultural pointers, she told them not to plan so hard; worry so much; or focus so intently on what lies down the road. As you take the first step, the second step will become clearer.  

She urged them to celebrate the remarkable moment we are living through and rejoice in the rare willingness of Canadians to make time from their harried lives to care for desperate strangers.”  

(You volunteers are to be congratulated for leading by example.)  

“As members of faith communities you can encourage others to act even though they don’t think they’re ready.  These refugees are summoning us to act together for the sake of others.  

Although Leddy’s principal aim was to assure listeners they were capable of rising to the challenges of sponsorship, she did share a few of the lessons she has learned living and working with refugees: 

-It is essential to let them know you have no ulterior motive. These are people who’ve been swindled, forced to pay corrupt officials and bribe police.  They’re understandably suspicious. Tell them you don’t want any money, there won’t be a payback and you’re not trying to convert them.  The short route to trust is to say we’re doing this for the love of God.  

-Refugees will often try to give you something. It is important to honour their wishes. One of their deepest losses is their inability to give.”  

We can work together.  We have the capacity to empower each other to do good and to help make this happen.  

Blessings to all of the teams.  Thank you for your time and efforts.”  
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