Chilliwack group pledging to ‘walk with’ Syrian family for a year

The main obstacle right now is finding an appropriate rental home for the family of refugees that will be coming to Chilliwack

Rev. Karen Medland of Carman United Church says six local churches  have joined forces to sponsor a Syrian family of refugees. They're 'poised' to do it quickly.

Rev. Karen Medland of Carman United Church says six local churches have joined forces to sponsor a Syrian family of refugees. They're 'poised' to do it quickly.

A Syrian refugee family could be arriving in Chilliwack in time for Christmas.

Rev. Karen Medland of Carman United Church says six local churches have joined forces to make it happen, under the aegis of the Eastern Fraser Valley Refugee Committee.

“We’re poised to do this. Things are happening really fast right now,” she told The Progress.

The committee has reps from Carman United, Chilliwack United, Agassiz United, Rosedale United, Mt. Shannon United, and Christ Lutheran.

They have pledged to “walk with a Syrian family” for an entire year — and could be connected with one in as little as 48 hours.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a family arriving in Chilliwack at Christmas?” she enthused.

Rev. Medland, who is relatively new to Chilliwack, has ample experience from her work at First United Church in Kelowna, where they successfully welcomed the latest Syrian family this summer, sponsoring seven families in total.

“I am an immigrant myself and I know what it is to come to a new country with resources. It was hard for my family to settle in Canada as immigrants.

“But it’s way harder as refugees.”

The Syrian family would be from the initial group of rigorously screened 10,000 refugees that Canada has pledged to take, with a total of 25,000 by the end of 2016.

So why did they decide to join forces as a committee?

“You get a stronger sense of community doing it that way,” Rev. Medland said.

But they’ll also have access to more resources.

They have about $10,400 committed to the cause, with $5,000 from Rosedale United, and another $5,000 from the Toronto Conference.

The main obstacle is finding an appropriate rental home.

“We thought this might be the time to do it, particularly with the horrendous crisis in Syria right now,” she said.

What people don’t realize is the incoming refugees have been traumatized and are languishing in refugees camps under terrible conditions — for years already.

“Make no mistake,” she said. “This is a long-term project. I’ve experienced this. It requires a commitment of time, energy and people.”

They need $14k up front for items like damage deposit, rent, food, utilities, bus passes, and more, followed by the balance of $16k for the first year.

The church-based reps got together last week to go over questions and concerns about sponsorship.

“Although some were concerned about the rhetoric they’re hearing about terrorism, I explained they will have gone through a most thorough and rigorous screening process. I had to reassure them of this.”

She explains the math to illustrate.

“Out of the more than 14 million refugees around the world, according to the UN, only one per cent of them qualify for this program.”

If that doesn’t convince them, she’ll remind anyone that Jesus was a refugee, forced to flee his home and live under terrible conditions.

Refugees coming to Canada will be sponsored through the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program, and will receive income support through the Resettlement Assistance Program, under Citizenship and Immigration Canada for half of their 12-month sponsorship period, or until they become self-sufficient. They will go through five levels of security checks, three by the UNHCR and two by the Government of Canada.

Send or drop off cheques to Carman United marked ‘Refugee Fund’ or call 604-858-3223. The address is 7258 Vedder Road, Chilliwack, V2R 4E4