The immigration sponsorship group at the Sechelt Seniors Activity Centre is gearing up fundraising activities in anticipation of the arrival of their Syrian refugee family within the next few months.
Joanne Rykers from the Seniors Centre is one of the people who came together to start the sponsorship project in the fall of 2015. The project holds special meaning for Rykers since her own family immigrated to Canada from Holland when she was seven years old, so she knows how it feels to arrive in a strange country with a new language and customs.
The Syrian family are a couple (a doctor and a teacher) with three sons aged 10, 12 and 14. All of them are busy studying English in anticipation of moving to Canada, and they’ve been in regular touch with their Sechelt sponsors via email and Skype.
The sponsorship committee must raise $36,000 to support the family for a year, and Rykers says they are “not quite half way there.” The committee is also collecting household goods and furnishings, and they are particularly in need of single beds for the boys.
Three fundraisers are scheduled for the next few weeks. On April 22 at 3pm, Keith Maxwell and Jack Pope will give an educational talk on the history and culture of the Middle East. Tickets are $10 and include Middle Eastern refreshments.
On April 29, there will be a dance at the activity centre with the Creek Big Band and vocalist Crystal Spence. The event starts at 7:30pm and tickets are $20.
Finally, a few tickets are still available for a special dinner sponsored and catered by Strait Coffee’s owners and staff on May 5 at 7:30pm. The $100 tickets include dinner, wine, entertainment, a silent auction and door prizes. Only 30 tickets will be sold, and most have been snapped up already.
For months the Sechelt sponsorship application showed up on the Canadian immigration website as “received”, but just two weeks ago the status changed to “in progress.”
“I began to get excited, so I called the government consultant,” said Rykers. The family’s immigration applications still have to be processed through the Canadian Embassy in Jordan, but Rykers is hopeful that they will arrive in Canada early this summer, in plenty of time to settle in before the new school year.
The newcomers will join two other Syrian families who moved to the Sunshine Coast last summer, sponsored by a committee organized by the Christian Life Assembly, Crossroads Community Church and the Community Services
Society. Donna McMahon