To be greeted by a friendly face is a welcome sight for refugees arriving in Canada to begin new lives. (Black Press file)

Cowichan Intercultural Society looking for people to join sponsorship groups, to ease transition for refugee families

Imagine your family separated by war.

Imagine your family separated by war.

You, your spouse and children have finally been welcomed by a safe country a world away, but your adult children are left behind, still waiting. As are your parents, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, maybe your grandparents. People whom you love, who have been your community and your support system your entire life.

Your family has had the tenacity and courage to navigate a war zone but the anguish is not over.

This is reality for most refugee families in Canada, including the Cowichan Valley. Few have been reunited with family members. Those who have, were assisted by sponsorship groups — local people with big hearts. When refugees settle in a new country it is not just a new location, it is an entire world of difference: language, culture, climate, employment, politics, economics, food — an infinite list. And managing these differences may be in addition to overcoming trauma from violence and loss. That’s why sponsorship groups are invaluable. They assist people to live fully again, to be part of the community, and to contribute their skills and talents, says the Cowichan Valley Intercultural Society.

SEE RELATED: Chemainus ramps up prep work for Syrian refugee family

The Cowichan Valley Intercultural Society is looking for more people willing to join sponsorship groups. As a group, sponsors take care of fundraising and settling immigrants into their new lives.

Studies show that when refugees are reunited with family members the ease of settling in and contributing to the new community increases exponentially. Besides initial fundraising, a sponsorship group is required to provide the family with one year of settlement assistance. That help can take many forms, from greeting newcomers and helping them get oriented to their new communities, to helping to find schooling and childcare, to providing emotional and moral support and more.

Being part of a sponsorship group is a one-year commitment and is carried out hand-in-hand with the new family’s local relatives and the Cowichan Intercultural Society.

A sponsorship group works together to plan and brainstorm activities, generally with individual members choosing tasks that suit their schedules, interests and skills (finances, coordination of events, shopping, research, website, social media, etc.) right down to making welcome signs for the airport.

Those interested in becoming part of a sponsorship group or wanting to learn more can contact Catherine J. Johnson at 250-748-3112 or email catherine@cis-iwc.org

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