Personal connection adds humanity to the refugee project

Church and community work to sponsor a Syrian family through Immigration Canada’s refugee program

St. Philip church members (from left) Ellen Hanson

St. Philip church members (from left) Ellen Hanson

In a fortuitous twist, St. Philip Anglican Church – and the wider community it’s working with – have a personal connection with the family they hope to sponsor from Syria.

“I was trying to sponsor my friends,” said Xane St. Phillip, a member of the church.

He’d been trying to get the friend he met 20 years ago, Jordie, his wife and their three children under the age of 12, to Canada.

“They’re still under government control where they are,” St. Phillip said, noting that is as safe as it gets, with the danger of ISIS a mere 20 kilometres away.

The church and community are working to sponsor the Syrian family through Immigration Canada’s refugee program. They are among 13 groups fundraising in Greater Victoria to bring refugee families here, said Susan Mark.

“We’re part of a huge surge of interest, compassion and feeling compelled to do something with the tragedy that’s happening,” Mark said. “It’s one way we can help.”

When the crisis in Syria became a hot topic around family dining tables and work water coolers in September, the church held a meeting.

“We had probably about 60 people,” Mark said.

From there they delegated responsibilities, with Mark heading up fundraising and St. Phillip dealing in publicity and information. The group is working with several students from UVic Law to get the paperwork done, and they’re spearheading events to gather the $50,000 needed to sponsor a family.

“I’m just so happy people are willing to help,” St. Phillip said. “It’s very real.”

The group has raised $12,000 so far.

“The other part is we will find them housing, furnish it and stock everything,” Mark said.

The plan is to befriend the family, make them feel welcome and aid with things such as English lessons, school registration and recreation opportunities.

“They’ll be leaving everything behind other than what they can carry on the plane,” Mark said.

Coming fundraisers include 300 Christmas cakes going out on order this week and a Dec. 6 jazz vespers Tribute to Frank Sinatra with Alex Samaras (vocals), Colleen Allen (saxophone), Gary Williamson (piano), Brian Barlow (drums) and Scott Alexander (bass).

They’re also working to keep the fundraising diverse, offering the youth group opportunities to give through car washes and bottle drives.

A pair of church members participating in the Recreation Oak Bay fall studio tour Nov. 14 and 15 – Mark herself and Terry Vatrt, will donate proceeds from sales during the tour back to the refugee fund. “People want to help. It just gives the general public an opportunity. They can help so easily,” St. Phillip said.

Make a tax-deductible donation to the Syrian Refugee Crisis Fund online at stphilipvictoria.ca/syrian-refugee-crisis-fund/ or at the church, 2928 Eastdowne Rd.

 

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