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Vancouver Island refugee group aims to reunite Afghan family

A local Afghan refugee sponsorship group is working to reunite a family
Members of the Comox Valley Afghan Sponsorship Team met the family they are helping via Zoom at a dinner in 2023. The group is now working to bring the remaining four family members to Canada. Photo by Terry Farrell/Comox Valley Record

In 2023, the Comox Valley Afghan Sponsorship Team (CVAST) successfully brought four members of a family to the community.

One year later, the group is back at work, endeavouring to reunite the other four family members with those who now call the Comox Valley home.

“Our team raised money to bring four members of a family of Afghan refugees to the Comox Valley: a young child whose parents are trained physicians and whose aunt worked at a law firm,” said Sherry MacLeod. “They arrived last July and are settling into their new lives. We are now raising the funding necessary to bring their parents and two younger brothers here to join them so that the family can be reunited and live in peace and security as they rebuild their lives following a harrowing escape from Taliban persecution.” 

CVAST was incorporated as a non-profit society early in 2024 and changed its name to the Comox Valley Refugee Sponsorship Society, CVRSS. Macleod is currently serving as the CVRSS president.

The CVRSS is working in conjunction with the Mennonite Central Committee of BC (MCCBC) to facilitate this latest sponsorship.

Under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program, Canada's government is allowing the MCCBC to provide sponsorship for 85 refugees this year. The CVRSS submitted an expression of interest the CVRSS in January, for the sponsorship of these four Afghan refugees. 

“In March, the MCCBC approved our application and has allotted us four of the 85 seats to bring the family over to the Comox Valley for resettlement,” explained Macleod. “We have submitted the sponsorship documents to the MCCBC and are awaiting onward referral to the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).  It is our sincere hope that the family will arrive before the end of the year, although it is more likely that they will arrive early next year.”

Based on the Resettlement Assistance Program, the CVRSS is required to pay all the costs involved, as a contingency amount of more than $10,000, and $2,100 in application fees.

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program stipulates that the sponsorship organization (in this case, CVRSS) is responsible for all of the costs of food, shelter, clothing, utilities, health, education etc. for each refugee during their first year of resettlement in Canada.  They are also responsible for helping the newcomers learn about Canadian society so that they can successfully integrate and settle into their new lives and work towards citizenship.

“So we are working hard to raise as much money as we can as quickly as possible to meet these requirements,” said Macleod.

One challenge for the CVRSS is it has not yet been approved as a registered charity, meaning it cannot offer tax receipts for donations at this time. 

“Therefore we must raise our funds by holding a series of events where the proceeds go toward the sponsorship,” said Macleod. “We have several events planned over the next few weeks.”

On June 15 the CVRSS is hosting a "huge" garage sale at 1741 Linden Ave. in Comox.

“We have had so many generous donations that there will certainly be something for everyone,” said Macleod. “Come and have a cup of Afghan tea as you browse and chat with our Afghan family.”

On June 23 there will be an Afghan cooking class, where two Afghan women will show participants how to make two dishes; an Afghan vegetarian dish (fragrant and delicious) and a wonderful dessert.

June 29 will be Art in the Park at the Marina Park in Comox from 10 a.m.– 6 p.m. where there will be art for sale, as well as an art auction. There will be a children’s art-making tent, as well as cookie sales and Afghan lemonade.  Live music will be provided by local musicians, and temporary henna hand tattoos will also be available.  

For more information about CVRSS and its fundraising events, email or call Macleod at 204 641 8293.

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 24 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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