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Thousands of Syrians have settled in Canada or are looking to make the move. Here's how you can show them support.
1. Become a private sponsor
When five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents arrange to sponsor an individual or a family, they can receive a Groups of Five (G5) designation from the Canadian government. (Visit this link to apply for the program.) An organization, association or corporation that wishes to sponsor a refugee must apply for a Community Sponsors (CSs) designation.
2. Contribute to a sponsorship group
A number of religious, community and service organizations have signed sponsorship agreements with the government. These sponsorship agreement holders (SAHs) can sponsor refugees themselves or work with people within the community to help resettle refugees. But it goes beyond that, explains Barbara Wynes, chair of the steering committee for Refuge Winnipeg, a group that has brought three Syrian families to the city through the United Church of Canada’s SAH program. "We provide guidance and mentorship, and we help with school enrolment for the children, English classes for the adults and orientation to Canadian culture." A list of SAHs in each province and territory can be found here.
3. Donate to a charity
Recognized Canadian or international humanitarian and development organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders/Médecins sans frontières, Canadian Red Cross and the UN Refugee Agency, are responding to the crisis in Syria. Find advice on selecting a charity that best represents how you would like to contribute here.
4. Volunteer your time and talents
Sponsorship groups need tutors, interpreters, drivers and more, says Peter Goodspeed, spokesperson for Lifeline Syria in Toronto, which recruits and trains sponsor groups. But the easiest way to make a difference? Show a family what life is like in Canada. That can mean a day trip to a local park or attraction, or just a meal. "Interaction helps integration," says Goodspeed.
If you're looking to volunteer, here are a few ideas:
1. Dictionary drive
Toronto's Michael Ballard collects Arabic-English dictionaries for refugees and their sponsor families. To do the same, ask supporters to purchase the books, then collect and donate them to local sponsor groups.
2. "Welcome to Canada" family basket
Each basket distributed by the Immigrant Services Society of BC contains donations of basic toiletries, household items and food.
3. Gift of warmth
Groups across the country, like Sticks, Strings and Stewardship Yukon in Whitehorse, are picking up their knitting needles to gift new arrivals with socks, blankets, baby sweaters, hats, scarves and mittens.
4. Sharing a love of sport
Soccer Balls for Syrians raises money to purchase a ball for every Syrian refugee child who arrives in Edmonton. The group has partnered with Free Footie, inviting refugee children to play soccer for free.
If you want to help but think you don't have time, read how to make time for volunteering.
This story was originally part of "Welcome Home" in the May 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!