Church group reaches out to refugee family
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Church group reaches out to refugee family

A refugee family could be taking up residence in Waterloo Region as early as this Christmas through the support of Calvary United Church in St. Jacobs.

Half a dozen church members formed a core refugee team a month ago at the church to start fundraising and sorting out accommodations for the family.

“Through the MCC and the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support we have been given a profile of a family. We’re waiting for them to get interviewed there. Then we’ll find out if they actually can come here and then we’ll be told when. It could be before Christmas and we could get like two weeks’ notice,” said refugee team member Christine Rose.

Housing is the biggest issue they’re trying to sort out now. They don’t want to lock them into a lease somewhere they don’t like, but also don’t want to get caught at the last minute scrambling to find a location.

The refugee family consists of a mother in her 50s, and her two sons, aged 20 and 18. They’re in Lebanon at the moment.

“Part of the resettlement plan is getting them support when they get here, like daily visits and getting them to know the language and feel included. We don’t really want to settle them in St. Jacobs. The bus routes aren’t great, they’re not close to grocery stores or things that they would need and so then we would need to, wherever they do settle, go there,” Rose said.

The government supports the refugee family from month two to month seven of their resettlement, but it’s only at a social assistance level. She says they were told by MCC they’d need to top up that amount. They’re looking to raise $30,000, but they don’t need the total amount right when the family arrives.

“What we’re looking at is people to maybe even say I’ll donate $25 a month for the next year, instead of a lump sum. That to me is easier than saying here’s $300,” Rose said.

Other members are showing their generosity, like a previous minister at Calvary just donated $1,000 as part of his 96th birthday celebration. Another member of the church asked for donations to the refugee fund instead of birthday gifts.

“The ideas are there and everyone is trying to find what they can do to help out,” Rose said.

But there’s more than finances to think about. They’ll need government documents, health cards, transportation from the airport, language classes, education, medical support, and employment. Those are all areas the church is looking into to prepare for their arrival.

“I hear the stories and I thought to myself how can I help, what can I do? A few people in the church had asked our minister what the church was doing. He just put it out there one Sunday morning, hey if anybody’s interested in sponsoring a refugee family or just seeing what that looks like, meet in the library. And there were 18 people that showed up. It’s been on people’s mind. I think the church was just the catalyst,” Rose said.

They’ll be raising money for the refugee family on Nov. 21 at their pork and beef dinner.

You can donate online through www.canadahelps.org by searching Calvary United St. Jacobs and then Calvary Refugee Fund.

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