In the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis that has dominated headlines recently, a local group is doing its part to sponsor a Syrian refugee family and bring them to Victoria.
The Victoria Refugee Sponsorship Group, comprised of roughly seven individuals, has been working with the Anglican Diocese of B.C. and the parish of St. Peter and St. Paul to bring a family of six — a mother, father, three children and grandmother, to settle in Victoria.
The family fled their home and are now taking refuge in Turkey until they can come to Canada. The father’s sister, who is living in Victoria, is helping with the process.
Sabine Lehr, one of the volunteers and immigrant services manager at the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, has been in contact with the family over the phone and said they are getting closer to welcoming them.
“It was exciting. So far we’d only heard of them and about them and it put a voice to it. We’ve seen pictures,” Lehr said of the phone call.
According to Lehr, the family has been given refugee status and is entering into the final process including medical exams and security checks before they can make the trip.
In order to help the family, Lehr and the group are trying to raise roughly $50,000 — with most of the proceeds going towards the cost of living for the family’s first year.
Over the last year, they’ve hosted a number of fundraising events. Most recently, they’ve established an online fundraising campaign. Since its launch, they’ve raised more than $8,000 of their $10,000 online goal. But the group is still only halfway to their $50,000 goal.
For Lehr, who has dual German and Canadian citizenship, she feels a historical responsibility to help refugees.
“My country of birth was the cause of one of the most horrific tragedies the world has seen — the holocaust,” she said. “It caused a huge number of people to become refugees. Because of that, I can’t turn back time, but I can live in the present and contribute to making sure I respond in the here and now to something similar that’s unfolding in the world.”
The family is expected to make the trip in the next few months. In the meantime, Lehr said they’ll look for housing.
The next fundraiser is Saturday, Oct. 10 at the St. Peter and St. Paul Anglican Parish (1379 Esquimalt Rd.) and will include Mediterranean cuisine, Syrian music and a silent auction. It is a minimum $25 donation.
To donate visit vicsponsorshipgroup.wordpress.com.