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Posted: November 26, 2015

Church group seeks to sponsor Syrian refugee family

A Syrian refugee family could be coming to Cranbrook thanks to the efforts of a newly-formed group called the Cranbrook Hub for Refugees (CHR), a constituent group of Christ Church Anglican, the oldest church in Cranbrook.

The eight-member group, which formed in late October, has completed an Expression of Interest application, the first step in the process for sponsoring a refugee family from Syria or elsewhere in the war-torn Middle East. The federal Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship hopes to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of the year and 15,000 more by the end of February 2016.

Government regulations require refugee sponsoring groups to raise $15,000 before they will be considered for sponsorship. The Anglican Diocese of Kootenay has sponsored refugees before and is now planning a major fund-raising campaign that will kick off soon.

Gerry Warner
Gerry Warner

CHR chair Gerry Warner said the campaign will go into high gear after Christmas although it’s accepting donations now.

“With Christmas fast approaching, people’s financial resources are ready being stretched so we won’t do a major fund-raiser until January. But if someone wants to make a donation to us, or as a gift to someone else, we’ll certainly accept it and issue a tax receipt,” he said.

The first refugees are expected to arrive in Canada within days, but are going mainly to military barracks in large cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton for relocation. As a result, Warner cautions this is only the beginning of what could be a long process.

“At this point we have no idea when we could expect to have a family in Cranbrook. But the important thing now is we’re doing everything we can to ensure that an immigrant family will feel welcome, safe and secure when they do arrive.”

Warner said CHR has been holding planning meetings weekly to prepare for the refugees’ arrival and has reached out to other Cranbrook churches interested in sponsoring refugees.

“The more churches and non-church groups that participate in this the better,” he said. “This is a humanitarian crisis of world-wide proportions and we need everyone’s help to prevent an even bigger catastrophe.”

Warner says members of the Christ Church congregation were jolted into action by the picture of three-year-old toddler Aylan Kurdi, whose lifeless body washed up on a Turkish beach Sept. 2 after the refugee boat he was in with his family capsized while crossing the Mediterranean. “Like many around the world, we were horrified by that picture.”

Meanwhile Warner says there’s little CHR can do now until its application is approved by Ottawa. But once it’s approved, CHR will be looking for volunteers to help provide housing, furniture, clothing and emotional support for the refugee family. Schooling and ESL lessons will also have to be arranged.

The group’s next meeting is Jan. 6, at which time it hopes to have its application approved by Ottawa and intensive preparations can begin for the arrival of the refugee family.

“We also plan on having a public meeting in January for anyone interested in helping us in this sorely-needed effort to help these brave families driven from their homes and facing dangers unimaginable to us,” Warner said.

Anyone seeking more information on CHR can contact Gerry Warner at (250) 489-3271 or Bonnie Spence-Vinge at (250) 426-4274.

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