Staff from CLWR, ELCIC and LCC are sponsoring a refugee family

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UPDATE: We just found out they will be a family of four: a couple with two children. The paperwork to get the sponsorship moving has begun.

The staff of Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and the two major national Lutheran church bodies are coming together for the first time to bring a Syrian refugee family to Canada.

The national offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), the LCC Central District office and CLWR are pooling donations from individual staff members to raise the money needed to support a family for a year.

Earlier this fall, CLWR staff members agreed to begin collecting pledges to sponsor one person, most likely a Syrian living in Jordan, where most of CLWR’s overseas programming for Syrian refugees takes place. CLWR invited the churches to get on board, making it possible to bring a whole family. 

While they have not connected with a particular family as yet, they do know that they will be able to sponsor a Syrian family of five. ELCIC, LCC and CLWR are headquartered in Winnipeg and that’s where they expect the family will live, so that staff members can provide emotional support and connect the family with settlement services like language training, job training and counselling.

CLWR is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government, which allows them to facilitate private sponsorships for congregations, families and other groups, including their own. Once a family is identified, CLWR expects it will take approximately two to six months before they arrive in Winnipeg. They plan to put their expertise in refugee resettlement to use.

“Each day we work to support congregations who are acting as refugee sponsors in Canada,” says Robert Granke, CLWR executive director. “My colleagues and I are excited to come together as a team and welcome a family, together with colleagues from the ELCIC and LCC. We are looking forward to identifying a family and meeting them in the coming months.”

This sponsorship is on top of the refugee sponsorships individual ELCIC and LCC congregations undertake every year across the country. 

ELCIC congregations have challenged themselves to sponsor 500 refugees by 2017 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.   

“I’m so glad our staff are participating in this sponsorship and taking part in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge,” says ELCIC National Bishop Susan C. Johnson. “Our partnership with CLWR is such an important part of living out our call to be a church In Mission for Others. The refugee sponsorship between our national offices is especially timely given the fact that our government is committed to increasing the number of Syrian refugees to Canada. Together we are taking ‘welcoming the stranger’ very seriously.” 

LCC President Robert Bugbee reflected on the decision of the LCC staff to support refugee resettlement.

“I’m deeply grateful to our friends at CLWR for inviting us to take part in this project,” President Bugbee said. “There are few better ways to come to grips with the worldwide plight of refugees than to spend concrete time with real individuals, and I believe that we ‘longtime Canadians’ will be the first to benefit when we seek to show this sort of love to others. It will be a great thing if the commitment of our national staff people to address this need encourages local congregations across the country to consider refugee sponsorship in their own communities.”

Refugee reality check

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Canada and CLWR are preparing to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees over the coming months. But the reality for most of the 620,000 refugees living in Jordan is that they will not be resettled in the near future. They live with the hope that peace will prevail, and many wish to return to Syria one day.

Until then, refugee families continue struggling to meet their needs, including making sure their children get an education. While the government of Jordan has generously allowed Syrian refugee students full access to the public school system, facilities are stretched and classrooms are crowded—things that don’t contribute to a positive learning environment.

That’s where you come in. With a gift of $20 for Giving Tuesday, December 1, you can help makeover these schools. That makes it Giving School-Day. And the Canadian government will match your gift.

The makeovers include fixing doors, windows, electrical circuits, and plumbing…doing the things that will help the kids focus on learning.

While we will welcome our new neighbours from Syria and make them feel at home in Canada, we can’t forget those who are still exiled from their country because of war and in whom we can help keep hope alive.

You can support Syrian refugee students with a donation at www.GivingSchoolDay.ca.

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Giving School-Day supports Syrian students

GSD boys classroom Nov 18

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about shopping. That’s why there’s Giving Tuesday. It’s all about sharing! At Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) we’re focusing the day on Syrian refugee kids and their education—a Giving School-Day!

 

Working with our partner organizations, Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) is planning to makeover over a number of schools—inside and out—including safe, hygienic washrooms.

The makeovers will install or upgrade electrical, windows, plumbing, doors, floors, stairs, school yards…all the things that create a positive learning environment.

Your gift of $20 toward a school makeover, on Giving Tuesday, December 1 will help CLWR reach its $20,000 goal. And the Canadian government will match each donation dollar-for-dollar!

Give these kids a good education for a brighter future!

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Relieving the burden of hunger

Raba’a’s children were hungry, but they didn’t complain. They knew the pressure their mother was under to provide for the family.

“They notice there’s a difference [in the amount of food I give them], but they keep quiet because they know the situation.”

It is a heartbreaking decision for any mother to make, to be forced to give her children less food. But Raba’a didn’t have much of a choice until she started receiving vouchers she can redeem for food at local grocery stores.

Raba’a and her family were living in the Yarmouk neighbourhood of Damascus for about 10 years when they fled the Syrian war for safety in Jordan. Their home has been laid to waste; the remaining residents in Yarmouk are currently under siege and enduring horrific conditions.

Raba’a then became a single mother when her husband died of cancer shortly after they arrived in Jordan.

She needed a way to start supporting her family, so she enrolled in a hair-dressing course given by a local non-governmental organization.

She works from home; business is better in the summer, she says. She does not earn much, but she says it’s enough to pay rent, utilities and her children’s expenses, like school supplies.

Nevertheless, it’s a meagre new home for herself, her two daughters (ages 15 and 11) and her two sons (ages 9 and 6). They have no furniture in the two rooms she rents.

When you add in the food needs of a young family on a low income, it’s a struggle to make ends meet.

As refugees of Palestinian descent, they are even more vulnerable.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is mandated to support Palestinians, is badly underfunded and has limited resources to help Palestinians who have fled homes in Syria.

Because they fall under UNRWA’s mandate, Raba’a is not eligible to receive food vouchers from agencies like the United Nations World Food Programme, which can support other Syrian refugees.

Fighting hunger

Our food voucher programs aim to fill this gap for the most vulnerable families. Through agreements with UNRWA and the Jordanian government, our partner The Lutheran World Federation-Jordan can distribute food vouchers to Palestinian-Syrians. They’re able to do this with your support and with funding from our partner the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Starting this month, Raba’a will receive 60 Jordanian dinars (about $110) each month for six months to help feed her family.

An example of a voucher refugees can redeem for food at local grocery stores. CLWR/J.Clark

An example of a voucher refugees can redeem for food at local grocery stores. CLWR/J.Clark

She has already participated in a voucher distribution earlier this year which allowed her to cover the basics: rice, sugar, cooking oil, frozen vegetables, milk and sometimes meat. She says she relied on the vouchers for about 60 per cent of her family’s food needs.

“I feel more relaxed because I’ve secured food for my kids. I can start thinking more about how I can support my kids [in other ways].”

She says the vouchers are simple to redeem at grocery stores in her area.

“I’m tackling two responsibilities: mother in the house, and father outside the home” who needs to work and look after expenses, she says. The vouchers “relieve some of the burdens I have.

“I really thank CLWR for giving us food.”

  • Jennifer Clark, Communications Officer, Canadian Lutheran World Relief

Background: Since early 2014 CLWR has been working in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to assist 4,700 of the neediest Palestinian-Syrian (60 per cent of recipients) and Jordanian households (40 per cent of recipients) in Mafraq, Zarqa, East Amman and Irbid Governorates in Jordan with food vouchers aimed to increase their food intake. One of the goals of this project has been to assist both vulnerable Palestinian-Syrians and needy Jordanians. In this way the needs of refugees and the over-burdened Jordanian host community are both addressed.

Information and resources for congregations about the Syrian refugee response

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Click here for photos, fact sheets, worship resources and information sessions related to CLWR’s (and your!) response to the Syrian refugee crisis:

http://www.clwr.org/Get-Involved/Syrianrefugeeresponseresources.htm

Refugee sponsorship: responding to the refugee crisis in Syria and around the world

CLWR’s Development Manager for Refugee Resettlement, Fikre Tsehai, reflects on the refugee crisis in the world today, the Canadian Lutheran response, and highlights some ways congregations can help by sponsoring refugees.

Refugee sponsorships by Canadian Lutheran World Relief are at a record high since the Kosovo crisis in the late 1990s.

With the escalation of humanitarian crises in parts of the Middle East and particularly in Syria, the number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in the world today is as high as it was during the Second World War. That number is difficult to imagine: 60 million people.

The number of Syrian refugees outside Syria alone has exceeded four million. Over eight million people are displaced inside that country.

The Syrian refugee movement has tragically become a protracted one with no durable solution in sight and with no hope of a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is engaged in the largest resettlement of Syrian refugees to countries including Canada. Out of the 100,000 Syrian refugees the UNHCR is planning to resettle, Canada has pledged to take in 10,000 of them over the course of three years. With the increased attention to the refugee crisis, that number may change.

CLWR has already sponsored 254 refugees this year from several different countries, together with Lutheran churches and with family members of refugees already in Canada.

We have been actively participating in Canada’s plan to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees. As such, 124 Syrians have been sponsored to date. We have also sponsored 84 Iraqis.

The other area that CLWR has been actively pursuing is the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) initiative.

The BVOR initiative is a cost-sharing sponsorship program with the Canadian government. The government covers six months of financial support for the refugees and sponsoring churches and/or constituent groups cover the remaining six months of financial support.

Under the BVOR program, Lutheran churches and three of our constituent groups (NEST in Saskatoon, Parish Care Centre in BC and NEST in Winnipeg) have sponsored 18 refugees from Burma, Colombia, Iran and Iraq.

A young family from Burma who came to Canada under the BVOR program. They arrived in Vancouver on July 29, 2015.

A young family from Burma who came to Canada under the BVOR program. They arrived in Vancouver on July 29, 2015.

We encourage Lutheran churches interested in sponsorship to be involved in the BVOR program because they benefit from the cost-sharing arrangement with the government. Refugees under this program also arrive in Canada fairly quickly because they have already been approved for resettlement.

Of all the vulnerable persons who flee persecution in the Middle East, the needs of Syrian and Iraqi Christians and other religious minorities need to be highlighted.  It is evident that religious and ethnic minorities have gone through or witnessed abhorrent violence by extremists. Here is an example of a horrific experience as told by a Syrian youth: “I explained to them [the extremists] why I converted to Christianity. When I returned to my home a few hours later, they had killed my mother, my father, my two sisters and my brother.”[1]

With escalating violence and the resulting displacement in the world, let us continue to be in mission for others by sponsoring refugees and give them a beacon of hope.

For those interested in sponsoring refugees to come to Canada, please contact Fikre Tsehai, CLWR’s Development Manager for Refugee Resettlement, at 1.888.588.6686, or Jennifer Ardon, CLWR’s Project Officer for Refugee Resettlement, at 1.888.255.0150. Or visit our website for more information: www.clwr.org/refugeeresettlement.

[1] A Syrian youth during an interview with a delegation of the US Catholic Bishops to Syria

Canadian Lutherans respond to Syrian refugee crisis with sponsorship and aid

As the conflict enters into fifth year people growing increasingly desperate, need for assistance heightens

A heartbreaking photo of a little boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned when the boat he was on capsized off the coast of Turkey. Thousands of people desperately trying to find refuge in Europe. For many, these stories have been a renewed call-to-action to help Syrians fleeing violence and bloodshed in their country.

As that conflict escalates, Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR) and our partners are continuing to respond to the suffering.

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CLWR has been supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan since 2012 with support from the Canadian government, the Government of Saskatchewan, partner agencies including Canadian Foodgrains Bank and The Lutheran World Federation, and Lutherans from across the country.

Our response to date has grown to more than $9 million in programming.

Emergency food vouchers were distributed over two six month periods to almost 3,500 households having difficulty meeting their family’s food needs.

Over 6,000 households have received non-food relief items including heaters, gas refills, clothing, sheets, mattress covers and hygiene kits. Over 700 dilapidated shelters were rehabilitated for warmth, safety, and water and sanitation.

This programming supported Syrian refugees and impoverished Jordanian families struggling with rising costs due to the increased demand for housing, food and other resources.

CLWR has also shipped $300,000 worth of aid donated by Canadians through our We Care program to people in the Za’atari refugee camp and refugees living in urban areas in northern Jordan. The shipments included sweaters and other clothing, blankets, school supplies and hygiene kits. Another shipment is scheduled to be loaded and dispatched on September 22 and 23.

In Canada, CLWR has submitted 124 refugee sponsorship applications to date for Syrians on behalf of Canadian congregations, groups and families who wish to sponsor them to come to Canada. CLWR is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Canadian government. CLWR continues to receive requests in record numbers from other Canadians who wish to help Syrian refugees find a safe home in Canada.

“We’ve been on the front lines delivering aid to Syrian refugees with the support of Canadian Lutherans, our Canadian and international partners, communities in Jordan, and Syrian refugees themselves,” says Robert Granke, CLWR’s executive director. “We intend to continue doing so.”

“Although the needs are enormous, there are things Canadians can do. One way is make a donation to help those who are struggling to survive because of the conflict, or consider sponsoring refugees to come to Canada. Another is to pray for peace in the region, so people no longer need to flee. Please reach out today.”

Those who would like to make a donation to help those affected by the crisis in Syria can go to http://clwr.donorshops.com/product/685132A/syrianrefugeerelief.php.

For those interested in learning more about refugee sponsorship, please contact Fikre Tsehai, CLWR’s Development Manager for Refugee Resettlement, at 1.888.588.6686, or Jennifer Ardon, CLWR’s Project Officer for Refugee Resettlement, at 1.888.255.0150. Or visit our website at www.clwr.org/refugeeresettlement.

Contact: Tom Brook, Community Relations Director for Canadian Lutheran World Relief, tbrook@clwr.mb.ca