Tag: refugee

Update from the Refugee Committee

The refugee committee has been busy submitting applications to fill the 50 allocations we have been allocated (one allocation/one person).

We have good news from one of our sponsored young people who has completed his accountant training, started working in his field, is getting married soon and will be a father in the fall. His sponsorship ended in November 2020.

The more recent arrivals are doing well.

The arrivals are still rare due to COVID and depend on the overseas offices ability to process applications, ability to interview, to do security checks which are usually extensive, to have a medical assessment and to have flights available and allowed to depart and land in Canada.

We have much more demands for sponsorship than we have allocations which is quite heartbreaking as so many are in unsafe and dire situations, including children.

We are very grateful for the support we get and the donations that allow us to bring refugees to safety. We could not do what we do otherwise.

A reminder that private sponsors are required to support the sponsored for one year with monthly allowance plus start up costs (furniture, bathroom needs, kitchen wares etc…).

Please contact the refugee committee if you have any questions

Keeping Our Ethical Base Strong – UCV & the World

At the UCV Partner Church Sunday Service on 22 Nov 2020 and at the subsequent forum on Unitarian Social Involvement in African Contexts we gathered together virtually with fellow Unitarians from Burundi and some of their supporters elsewhere in Canada. The connections UCV has had in this work are interesting. We’ve been meeting and corresponding with Rev Fulgence Ndagijimana for a number of years now, beginning with emails of support when he was imprisoned in Burundi and we joined other international voices of concern that helped have him released. He eventually made his way safely with his wife and son to Saskatoon as refugees, where he finalized some of his UU Ministry Association credentials, and established Flaming Chalice International (FCI), a Canadian Registered Charity. (That means Canadians can make donations directly to FCI and obtain a charitable donation receipt for income tax purposes.)

Rev Fulgence was the founder of the Burundian Unitarian Church in 2002 and is active in the International Council of Unitarian Universalist (ICUU). He recently moved from Saskatoon to Ottawa (“mon pays…c’est l’hiver!”) where there is a larger Burundian community. He remains active with FCI as well as supporting other community initiatives including the emerging Rutana Burundi / Vancouver Canada Partner Church Relationship.

This week, Rev Fulgence told me about a UU connection that I didn’t know about, namely, the support for Burundian community economic initiatives by Spirit in Action, (their slogan is “micro grants, major change”), an inter-denominational US-based charity that began in the mid twentieth century, and whose current Executive Director is Tanya Cothran, a Unitarian. Tanya lives part time in California and part-time in Toronto where she is a member of the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto.  Tanya also served for several years as Treasurer of the Canadian Unitarian Council She travels regularly to Africa to meet with grant recipients and potential new recipients, and in 2017 she co-authored with Jennifer Lentfer the book Smart Risks: How small grants are helping to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

The deep message, for me, in these supportive connections is the value of our Unitarian Principles and Sources, particularly Principles #1, #2 and #6 which state:

“We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.”

I’ve intentionally included lots of links in this story (ten, I believe) to highlight the complex and surprising interdependent social and ethical web of which we are a part. That web needs on-going attention as old links end and new engagements emerge. That’s what steady organizations like Vancouver Unitarians, Toronto Unitarians, and the Canadian Unitarian Council provide. When we give to charities like FCI and SIA that provide direct support for people in need, whether they be refugees or people working hard to build better lives for themselves in their own countries, we should also remember to give, I believe, to some of the organizations that act to coordinate and facilitate that support. So—I hope you’ll donate to one of these boots-on-the-ground enterprises, and also to Vancouver Unitarians for our members, minister, and staff to use in
keeping our ethical base strong.



Left – Tanya Cothran, Executive Director, Spirit in Action (SIA).

Top – Rev Fulgence Ndagijimana, Flaming Chalice International (FCI).

Refugee committee update

An update from our Refugee Committee – December 27, 2019
  • The refugee committee continues its efforts to bring people to safety.
  • Jean B who has been attending our services regularly as a Unitarian is finally settled, sharing a 2 bedroom suite in Surrey with Jean Pierre, a friend .They are both working full time at Amazon in Delta. J B is registered for English classes .He is already at level 4 which means he has already a significant knowledge of English.
  • We were given 10 spaces for the last few months of  2019 to apply for sponsorships. We proceeded immediately to have a Syrian family of 5 plus their friend to apply. We have been accepted as their sponsor.
  • We also put an application for 3 Eritrean single young men and we also have been accepted as their sponsors. This is the first step for the file to go to the required embassies abroad (Aman and Tel Aviv respectively).
  • We had one spot left and we are sending an application for one young Syrian man refugee in the Emirates.
This completes our allocations given for this year to us as a New SAH (Sponsorship Agreement Holder). In 2020, we will be receiving some allocations. We do not know yet how many but we have to start fund raising if we are to continue bringing people to safety. It requires $16,500 for one individual to support them for one year which is what we are required to do minus some deductions if furniture etc.. is donated.
We are going to need everyone support in this endeavour. Julia has a table at church every Sunday. We will organize some events during the year. Everyone is welcome to bring their ideas and join the fund raising spearheaded by Catherine Stewart. We have wonderful dedicated refugee committee members .We welcome anybody who wants to join or know more about what we are doing.
For 2020, we would like to be able to bring our Unitarian Burundians refugees in Rwanda who are in a very precarious situation and precarious safety as the militia cross the border easily to target them .We have been recommended by Fulgence, Burundian refugee Reverend in Saskatoon who is now a permanent resident of Canada.
You can also always make donations to the Sheilah Thompson Refugee Fund in which case you will receive a tax receipt.
Thank you for all your help. A very special  thank you to Karen Brumelle who donated her art and raised funds for the refugee committee.
If we get extra spaces we will be preparing applications for a family of five and a family of four‎ as long as we can raise the necessary funds.
– from Huguette.
See also the group that Paul Prescod is involved with supporting.
Stop by the Refugee Committee‘s fundraising table any Sunday or contact the committee to support, donate or ask questions.

Iraqi Refugee Family Arriving Next Week

from Huguette Sansonnet, Refugee Committee

An Iraqi family of a couple with a two-and-a-half year old child will be arriving from Jordan by way of Frankfurt on January 22nd. The refugee committee has been busy assembling furniture and household items to move into the new apartment for them. If you have or know someone who has 4 chairs and a bed appropriate for a young child, please contact Huguette right away or phone the congregation’s office at 604-261-7204.

The family is originally from Iraq.

Donations to support the Refugee Committee’s sponsorship efforts can be made to the church, marked “refugees” and are tax deductible.

How Refugee Sponsorship Works at UCV

By Kaitlin Duck Sherwood, Leader of a Refugee Sponsorship group

The Refugee Committee helps refugees in two different categories:

Private Sponsorship, where the refugees are named and known (what I call the “let’s bring in grandma” category) and

the Blended Visa Office Referral (BVOR) program, where you want to help somebody but you don’t care so much who.

With the Private Sponsorship, the sponsors are legally responsible for 100% of the financial support for the first year; with BVOR, the sponsors are legally responsible for a portion (around 60%) of the financial support. With both Private and BVOR, the sponsorship group is responsible for 100% of the logistical and emotional support.

While the Vancouver Unitarians Refugee Committee does all of the support for some of the refugee families, a very important role is to facilitate sponsorship for other sponsorship groups, such as my own group of private individuals. To sponsor a BVOR family, a sponsorship group must partner with a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) such as CUC. By facilitating the work of other sponsorship groups, the Vancouver Unitarians Refugee Committee acts as a “force multiplier”, allowing sponsorship of many more refugees than the Refugee Committee members could handle by themselves

The Unitarian Church of Vancouver, as a constituent of Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC), makes sure the sponsorship groups raise enough money to support the family, vets the sponsorship groups, holds the money, advises the sponsorship group, helps pick a family off an anonymized list (that only the SAH has access to), coordinates communication between the sponsorship group, CUC, and IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), meets the family and signs the legal documents to formally take responsibility of the family at YVR airport, and passes along in-kind physical donations (like clothing/furniture/kitchen supplies) from UCV members, and provides more advice. And more advice.

Ultimately the Unitarian Church of Vancouver is responsible if for any reason the sponsorship group is not able to meet the government requirements. And the Canadian Unitarian Council is responsible if UCV is not able to meet the requirements. So we all work closely together to make sure everything is done well. And this works.

Once the sponsorship group (which might be the Refugee Committee itself) finds out when the family’s plane will arrive, it kicks into high gear.

For example, we got the news seven days in advance that the Eritream family of three would arrive on March 6, 2018. After we got the news, we arranged temporary housing, got them a phone and cell plan, stocked their temporary housing with some food, found a permanent apartment, helped them fill out a massive number of forms, helped them get Social Insurance (SIN) cards and a bank account, got them winter coats, took the father to a medical appointment, showed them how to use their debit cards to buy transit Compass Cards, took them shopping for essentials (like underwear!), helped them phone their friends back in the camps, took them to the Ethiopian Church, and did a lot of talking, orienting, and many other details too minor to call out explicitly.

Shortly after those urgent matters, we will co-sign the lease on their apartment, move donated furniture into the apartment, buy a small amount of furniture, help them buy groceries and cleaning supplies, help them register the boy for school, register for English classes, take a bus/Skytrain ride, get library cards, and get to eye and dental exams.

Longer-term, we will check in periodically to make sure they are adjusting well and give help as needed (e.g. to help mediate disputes or help them find trauma counselling), and help them find jobs.

As the leader of a sponsorship group, I am deeply grateful to the work the Refugee Committee does. Not only would it not be possible for us to sponsor a BVOR family without the Refugee Committee’s legal umbrella, it would have been much more difficult to muddle through without easy access to their institutional knowledge and large stockpile of donated objects.

People ask: How can I help?

For the family who just arrived, things are pretty much in hand. There are always expenses before, during and after the settlement, so donations to the UCV Refugee Fund is the most obvious way of helping. (Yes, tax receipts are issued). If you attend on Sundays, bring stuff for the thrift sale table and buy stuff. Julia absolutely refuses to give a “price”– it’s all by donation. All items that are donated find a good home. If they’re not needed by our refugee families, they’re sold at UCV. If they’re not sold after a while, they’re donated to the Mennonite Central Committee who ensure they’re used.

Now, speaking of that table, Julia and George do a huge job storing, setting up, distributing items. If you have storage space or a way to transport items around, I’m sure they could use help.

Help out at a fundraising lunch or event.

The big ask is: When we have families arrive, they need temporary housing for about two weeks. On short notice.

An even bigger ask: Form a group of five and take on the responsibility (and joy) of sponsoring a family. We can put you in touch with other leaders who can show you the ropes. It’s a big job–and a very rewarding one.

The committee meets monthly: show up and learn more and you’ll see where the needs are.

Do you have other questions or offers? Send an email and we’ll forward to the right people.