The holiday season is upon us and what better time than this to give you our very good fund raising news in support of the Syrian refugee family we are sponsoring with your generous hearts and financial support. Our goal was to raise $30,000.00 which, combined with the Emmanuel United Church donation of $25,000.00 would put us in a very strong position to sponsor the Atieh family of seven for the first full year of their settlement in Canada.
We have worked hard and in addition to individual donations, we have hosted a Shout Sister Concert and contributed significantly to the Riverview Park Community Association biannual Fall Social and Silent Auction. Half the profits from the Fall Social were donated to the ITC. We also benefited significantly from a similar initiative sponsored by our neighboring Hunt Club community association who also tried to raise funds to sponsor independently but were unable to. They most generously donated over $2500.00 to our efforts. We have now raised a total of $31,600.00 for a grand total of $56,600.00! We are thrilled as I am sure you will be as well. Thank you once again for helping us reach and exceed our goal.
That is the wonderful news. The not so wonderful news is that our application did not make it to the front of the queue when there were extra immigration officials in place to screen applications. Therefore, the approval process is taking longer than we had hoped. We are now told that we can expect our family to arrive in spring 2017. We are cautiously optimistic as I am sure you have been reading the number of sponsoring groups across the country who are ready as well but the approval process is very slow.
The challenge will of course be to keep up the momentum. I attended a “Lessons Learned” session sponsored by Refugee 613 here in Ottawa and learned that many groups are facing the same challenges. They are becoming very creative and inviting volunteers from groups still waiting for families to donate three hours a week to assist with families already here—not with cash but with time. Everyone is trying very hard and the commitment is heartening but the waiting is challenging.
We have a list of volunteers from the community who have put their names forward for various settlement committees. As the arrival date moves closer, these committees will become very active but until we have some more tangible idea of arrival time, it is premature to initiate much activity. We are going to see if we can find an available storage space so that we can start a furniture and household furnishings drive. We do not want to rent such a space and find that we are wasting money on storage that could be put to much better use. There have been several horror stories of groups renting a home only to have it empty for months waiting for arrival. We will try not to waste a penny of the funds raised so will look for free alternatives if possible.
There are a few things we can continue to do while we are waiting and I offer these for your consideration:
- IF you have access to storage space or a contact who might donate storage space, please do let us know. It would need to be here in Ottawa of course;
- If you have household goods, furniture, furnishings, beds, linens, kitchen equipment, clothing and you can store it yourself, please try to put it aside so it will be quickly accessible when the time comes. We have heard many stories of groups getting as little as a few days or two weeks notice of arrival so the more that is at the ready the better;
- Help support the family through the winter in Beirut until their application is approved. As you know our family consists of seven– mother,father, two brothers, sister-in-law and two pre-school children. They are currently living in a one bedroom apartment in Beirut with no refugee support and they are not allowed to work so daily life is very challenging. There is one brother, his wife and infant daughter who are already in Ottawa. Feras came as an immigrant a few years ago, has a good job and is doing well. He and his wife, Lama, will be great assets to the entire family and to us when they arrive. They are sending money when they can to help them and at our various fund raisers we have asked people to donate small amounts they have on their person. Every tiny bit helps. Many of us can spare an additional $10.00 of $20.00 even if we have already donated. Multiplied by one or two hundred generous hearts and we would have sufficient to help them through until spring. These small donations will be sent via Feras to the family and therefore are not eligible for charitable receipts. However if it is in your family’s tradition to donate to a good cause over the holidays, perhaps you could consider a small amount as part of your Christmas giving. Send any donation to my attention: Lynne Bezanson, 1601 Balena Avenue, Ottawa, K1G 0X1 or you can make a small donation very easily on our website at www.fundrazr.com/itcrefugeeactiongroup. Should you go up on the website you will note that very few people has used that means of donating as no charitable receipts can be issued but it is a perfect vehicle for small donations;
- I have attached for information the volunteer sheet for the various committees that will be organized when the time comes. If you have expertise, time and or connections that could help with any of these, please do complete the form and send back to me; and of course
- See if there are families already here who could benefit from some assistance and social connection.
Perhaps food for thought as you enter into the holiday season. You have been most generous and it is greatly appreciated by us and by the Atieh family. We are where we are because of you. It does take a community and we sincerely thank you. Updates will be sent out when we have breaking news. In the meantime, a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, good holidays to all and time to count our blessings.
Warm wishes from the ITC Refugee Action Group, Emmanuel United Church, Riverview Park Community Association and the Atieh Family.
Don’t hesitate to contact Lynne Bezanson, Chair of ITC Refugee Action Group for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-733-2946.