Catholics to sponsor refugees

Catholic parishes in Summerland and Penticton will sponsor a Syrian refugee family.

Catholic parishes in Summerland and Penticton will sponsor a Syrian refugee family.

Mary-Anne Smirle, chair of communications for the refugee sponsoring committee, said three churches in the area are working together to support a family of four.

The churches are Holy Child Catholic Church in Summerland, St. Ann Parish in Penticton and St. John Vianney Parish in Penticton.

The churches, under the Catholic Diocese of Nelson, have already raised the money necessary for the sponsorship.

The cost of sponsorship is between $23,000 and $24,000.

The diocese has already been approved as the Sponsorship Agreement Holder and thus has been pre-approved to bring in a series of refugees.

The approval was granted in April.

The diocese is working to sponsor 12 refugee families, nine from Syria, one from Iraq, one from Colombia and one from Myanmar.

The churches will support the family for their first year in Canada or until the family becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.

While the funds have been raised, Smirle said other forms of support will be needed.

These include providing housing, arranging transportation and connecting the family with the necessary services in the region.

She said an “army of volunteers” will be needed to provide support.

The family consists of a 38-year-old father, a 24-year-old mother and two boys, ages five and seven. The father is trained as a tailor.

They are living in a refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon.

They have been screened and registered by the United Nations and are now undergoing three levels of screening by the Canadian government.

Smirle said response to the sponsorship effort has been mixed.

“The generosity has been overwhelming,” she said, “but there are individuals who have very strong views and they have voiced them.”

It is not yet known whether the family will be located in Summerland or Penticton when they arrive in Canada.

At present, a Syrian refugee family of five have already settled in Summerland. That family, sponsored by Summerland United Church, arrived in late March.

Since civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, more than nine million Syrians have fled their homes.

At present, 4.3 million are on the list of refugees through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Canadian government has committed to bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of this year, with another 15,000 to arrive by March 1, 2016.