The members of the Esquimalt Refugee Family group. Back row

The members of the Esquimalt Refugee Family group. Back row

Syrian refugees slowly trickling into Victoria

The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria expects another 60 to 70 Syrian refugee families will arrive through private sponsorship.

The father is 36 years old, his wife is 28 and they have a two-year old son. Their English is limited, with the father knowing a few phrases, but his wife doesn’t speak any at all. His expertise is digital software programming, industrial mechanics, alternative energy and the wife is a cook.

Those are about all the details the 12 citizens with the Esquimalt Refugee Family Sponsorship Group know about the Syrian family they are trying to bring overseas from Turkey. Philippa Catling is anxious for them arrive, but doesn’t know when that will happen.

“We have guarded enthusiasm because we have no idea how long it could take. It could take a year, it could take six weeks, we just don’t know whether some snags are going to crop up,” said Catling, noting the family is still trying to get all the necessary papers together.

“They are in a really perilous situation. The less time they cope with those conditions (in Turkey,) the better.”

The Esquimalt Refugee Family Sponsorship Group is among 35 constituency groups in the capital region that are working under the guidance of the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) to sponsor Syrian refugees.

So far, 28 people (five families and a single person) have arrived in the capital region. The first family came in mid-December.

ICA Executive Director Jean McRae expects another 60 to 70 families will arrive through private sponsorship, but it’s not clear when exactly that will happen. It’s also still not known whether Victoria will receive any government assisted refugees, but if that does happen, McRae estimates there could be as many as 150 to 200 people or 40 families in the city.

As for those who’ve already arrived, McRae said it’s still early but so far they seem to be settling into their new Canadian life.

They are still in the process of having a needs assessment done with settlement providers and children are getting connected with schools.

Most have had their English levels assessed and are on a wait list to get into class. The ICA is currently trying to get funding for more English classes to help with the wait list.

“Most of them, their English is quite low. People are coming in with lower language levels than originally anticipated,” said McRae, who’s also been working with landlords to find suitable housing for those who have yet to arrive.

“As we get more people coming I think the housing situation will be challenging and getting into a home is one of the key pieces.”

Moved by the plight of refugees fleeing the war in Syria, Catling started an onling fundraising campaign last fall to raise money and sponsor a family. Much to her surprise, she managed to raise about $10,000, but soon realized she couldn’t continue alone.

So Catling banded together with two other people that were members of the Esquimalt United Church. During an information session held at the church in December, the ICA outlined the process involved for privately sponsoring a refugee family. More than 80 people attended, thus beginning the Esquimalt Refugee Family Sponsorship group.

One of the interesting things about the group, noted Catling, is they come from all backgrounds. Some attend the United Church, some the Jamat Khana Ismaeli mosque while others are simply members of the community with a wide variety of talents. The group has also been endorsed by Esquimalt council.

“What’s pleased me hugely is that it’s remained very firmly community based. It’s not the United Church, it’s not the Catholics, it’s not the Muslims, it’s a group from the community,” said Catling. “For me, it’s a bit of a relief because all of a sudden I’m not doing it all by myself.”

The father of the family the group is sponsoring has a sister already living in Victoria. Another branch of the same family are being sponsored by another constituent group in the city.

The Esquimalt group needs between $45,000 to $60,000 to support their family for one year. So far they’ve raised about $30,000. Visit esquimaltrefugeefamily.ca for information.

 

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Keygan Power with brother Quintin and mom Allison while camping the weekend before Keygan’s brain hemorrhage on Aug. 2, 2020. (Photo Allison Power)
Saanich teen ‘locked inside,’ regaining speech after severe brain hemorrhage

16-year-old suffers traumatic loss of function, still plays a mean game of chess

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

North Saanich is giving local businesses a break by waving renewal fees for 2021. (Black Press Media file photo)
North Saanich waives business renewal fees for 2021

The municipality raised $48,000 from businesses licences in 2020

The Sooke school district has filled all spots for their French immersion and nature kinderagarten programs in 2021-2022 school year. Regular kindergarten registration is still open and available. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sooke school district gets surplus of nature, French immersion kindergarten applications

Not enough room for almost half of nature kindergarten applicants

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read