A Summerland church is sponsoring a refugee family as they relocate to Canada.
The family of five are among 10,000 Syrian refugees the government of Canada is taking in over the next three years.
“There are millions of people around the world displaced from their homes living in refugee camps, because of war and violence, political or social oppression,” said David Sparks, co-chair of Summerland United Church’s sponsorship committee. “We will enable one refugee family to escape the danger, uncertainty and fear and give them a safe home.”
The family of two parents, two teenage daughters and a nine-year-old son are from a region of Syria which has experienced some of the most intense fighting in that country’s civil war.
To escape the fighting between rebels and government forces, the family fled to Jordan. The Canadian government has put them on a list of people approved to be resettled to Canada.
Armand Houle, minister of Summerland United Church, said the United Church of Canada has a history of sponsoring and welcoming refugees.
“Whether it was the Vietnamese boat people, Bosnian refugees, or people fleeing the violence and oppression in some Latin American countries, United Church congregations across Canada have been in the forefront of sponsoring and welcoming newcomers to Canada,” he said.
Sparks said the family is expected to arrive in Canada in two to three months, but the timeline could be as short as one month.
At present, the church’s sponsorship committee is working to find rental accommodations in Summerland and finding someone in the area who speaks Arabic.
In addition, the church is committed to covering the sponsorship costs, estimated at between $16,000 and $18,000.
While the financial commitment is significant, the church’s congregation decided it was important to take on the sponsorship.
The congregation unanimously voted in favour of the sponsorship.
“Its a small amount of money to change one family’s life for the better,” Houle said.
He added that while the church is the sponsoring organization, he would like to see others participating as well.
“It is our hope the entire community will get involved. It really is Summerland United Church and friends who are sponsoring this family,” Houle said. “Summerland is such a great community, with a strong spirit of neighbour helping neighbour whether locally or globally we know that this family will find a warm and supportive welcome in our community as they start a new life in Canada.”
Anyone with information on accommodations and anyone who knows of local Arabic speakers is asked to contact the United Church 250-494-1514 or email email@example.com.
The church is also accepting tax-deductible donations to help the family with expenses during their first year in Canada.