Lutheran Church of the Cross on Cedar Hill Road will hold a fundraiser Sept. 16 to help sponsor four refugees.                                Google

Lutheran Church of the Cross on Cedar Hill Road will hold a fundraiser Sept. 16 to help sponsor four refugees. Google

Saanich church to raise funds for refugees

A local church wants to help four individuals start new lives in Canada after they have escaped two of the most repressive regimes in the world, but remain in limbo.

Lutheran Church of the Cross is holding a fundraiser on Sept. 16 to help sponsor four refugees. The fundraiser itself happens from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Lutheran Church of the Cross on Cedar Hill Road. Tickets cost $25 and available in advance.

The fundraiser — which will resemble a happy hour social, with drinks, appetizers and desserts — will help the church build up its financial resources to do its part against the backdrop of an escalating refugee crisis, says Coughlin.

“Africa is going to need more and more help with refugees,” she says.

In fact, all four receiving sponsorship come from Africa. One of the four refugee is a woman from Burundi, who is currently in Rwanda. Burundi, a small state in central Africa, has had a long history of political repression and violence.

The three others — a woman plus a father and his son — have escaped Eritrea, whose record is even worse than Burundi’s.

Located in the northeastern corner of Africa, Eritrea ranks among the repressive political regimes in the world. Freedom House, a U.S. Government-funded non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights, places Eritrea in same category as North Korea and Uzbekistan, when it comes to political rights and civil liberties. Only Syria has a worse record.

The Eritrean woman is currently waiting to enter Canada from Ethiopia, while the father and son are waiting entry in Uganda.

Sherry Coughlin, who chairs the church’s sponsorship committee, says the fundraiser will help cover sponsorship costs.

“Sponsorship does not come cheap,” she said. Sponsorship costs for any individual fall anywhere between $20,000 and $25,000 for the 12-month duration of the sponsorship, depending on the number of circumstances, says Coughlin. They include among others whether the newcomer can count on support from family members in Canada.

“If not, the cost of an apartment alone is about $1,000 per month at Victoria housing prices,” she says.

Refugees also often arrive with medical problems, whose costs can be significant, she says. Other items include utilities, food, clothing and transportation, she says. Sponsors also often help with in-kind donations with other items, such as furniture and electronics among others. But costs can add up quickly, she says.

It is not clear when the four refugees will arrive. The Burundi woman has been waiting for two years, the Eritrean woman for one year, and the applications for the father and the son are still awaiting submission.

“There a lot of hoops to jump through,” she says.

Lutheran Church of the Cross is sponsoring the Eritrean woman and the Burundi woman in collaboration with Grace Lutheran Church.

In the past, the church has informally helped with Syrian refugees, says Coughlin.