Refugee Sponsorship Initiative Update: October 2016

As the weather gets colder and we move into Winter, we mark nearly nine months since our newcomer family arrived in Canada. With the support of the sponsorship group and the wider congregations, the family continues working hard to adjust to life in Canada.


The summertime brought new activities for the children, including swimming lessons, attending two day-camps, and learning to ride bikes.  Volunteers took them out to the park on a regular basis to practice and learn safe habits. Ahmad, the eldest boy also started karate lessons which he will continue into the winter.


In the fall Ahmad started a grade 4 ESL program at Penbrooke Meadows School. Kholoud is in grade 1 and Abdullah in kindergarten in regular programs at Andrew Sibbald School.  All the children seem content in their schools and are doing well.


That leaves the youngest, Amer who is 2 & ½ years old. Three times a week volunteers watch Amer and involve him in activities while other volunteers tutor his mother.


For the parents Nesreen and Ayoub, the priority continues to be learning English. They both completed ESL level one at the YMCA in August, and Ayoub now continues studying level two at the YMCA.  Given the complexities of childcare, Nesreen is tutored at home and attend groups and events where she can practice English.  They have also both expressed interest in getting their Canadian driver’s licenses so that they have a bit more independence and mobility.


All things considered, the sponsorship group is pleased with how the family is doing. Ayoub recognizes the importance of learning English and shows initiative and resourcefulness in meeting the needs of his family. Nesreen is well-supported and keen to learn English. They have a network of friends from the Syrian and Lebanese communities in Calgary with whom they socialize regularly, and the children attend schools that offer them language and additional supports.


As many sponsors across the country are discovering, one year is a remarkably short time to adjust to life in a new country, learn a new language and become self-sufficient, particularly when newcomers arrive without a professional designation or technical skill set. As such, the sponsorship group is concerned about how the family will manage without direct financial support from the churches. With less than four months remaining in the sponsorship year, a good portion of the sponsorship group’s attention is turning towards finding ways to mitigate the challenges that come with the end of official sponsorship.  Such steps include detailed budget planning with the family, ensuring that all medical and dental needs are addressed before the end of January, and helping the family locate and move into a new home. The sponsorship group also wants to ensure that mental health support and counseling is available to the family should they need it. The newcomer family still have family and friends in Syria, and this reality, along with the challenges they face here in Canada can take their toll.


Come February, the sponsorship group (with the continued support of the churches) intends to continue assisting the family as it can. What is less clear is how much financial support can be given to the family without impacting how much the family receives from government agencies. The sponsorship group is currently looking at what, if any, opportunities there may be for financial assistance while fully respecting any limitations brought on by government policy and our own charity status.


A big thank you to all the congregations for your faithful support of the newcomer family – your financial contributions; volunteered time; prayers and positive messages are much appreciated. We will keep you updated on the family’s progress and reach out for specific assistance if needed.

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