They are ready for their two Syrian families to arrive.
The Eastern Fraser Valley Refugees Committee has been working in earnest since November preparing to receive four Syrian adults and two youths, who are now awaiting medical and travel clearance from refugee camps in Jordan.
They could be here within a matter of weeks, said Laura Hames, a member of the eight-person committee comprised of volunteers from six churches in the area.
“Everything is in place,” said Hames. “They could arrive tomorrow and we’d be ready.”
Even though it is several church congregations doing the sponsorship, the effort is not a missionary, or religious one, she underlined.
It’s about compassion and respect for people who’ve been “caught up in an impossible situation.”
“I think people just want to help. It has nothing to do with converting anyone. We have a lot to learn from each other. So as churches we find ways to have compassion and respect, and by respect that also includes respect for their privacy, their culture, and their beliefs.”
The committee is sponsoring one couple in their 40s, and another couple with two teenage boys, through the federal Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program.
A BVOR commitment is for one full year. It requires the sponsoring group to provide their families with a variety of supports — financial, social and emotional for that year-long stretch.
The sponsorship committee brings together Agassiz, Rosedale, Carman, Chilliwack, and Mount Shannon United Churches, as well as Christ Lutheran Church, and community groups.
Rev. Karen Medland from Carman United has experience from sponsoring refugees families in Kelowna.
The group has secured enough funds to last a year, including two rental spaces, a basement suite and a single-family home.
“We’re anxious and eager to get them here where they’ll be safe,” said Hames. “They just want to start their new lives. It’s so hard for Canadians to even imagine what the Syrian refugees have been through.”
Acquiring English language skills will be job one, along with finding jobs for the adults, and getting the two teens up to speed academically.
The Refugees Committee is working with Cornerstone Christian Reform Church on McNaught on a joint fundraiser on May 11. Canadian author Lawrence Hill, who wrote The Book of Negroes, will be speaking. Tickets will be $40.
“The level of support we’ve seen is incredible,” Hames noted. “Chilliwack is amazing and caring that way. It makes us very proud.”
The committee is still on the lookout for a fairly up-to-date computer, as well as an apartment sized washer and dryer from those willing to donate.
To contact the committee, or donate, call the Chilliwack United Church at 604-792-4634, to leave a message for Hames and the Eastern Fraser Valley Refugees Committee.