There was barely a dry eye at the end of a 20-minute Zoom call between the Comox Valley Afghan Sponsorship Team (CVAST) and the family it has been helping to get to Canada.
A virtual meet and greet was held Wednesday, Feb. 1 between CVAST and its sponsorship family currently in hiding from the Taliban.
The family of four is in the process of gaining entry into Canada, and ultimately, the Comox Valley, where the father, his sister, his wife, and their three-year-old son will immerse themselves as members of the community.
The meet and greet, held at Off Main, was the first chance for most of the CVAST team to meet and speak with the family they are sponsoring.
The Anglican Diocese of British Columbia is the sponsorship holder, and Sherry MacLeod, of CVAST, is the principal applicant for the family.
MacLeod spent a year in Afghanistan 12 years ago, as a military member, and during that time made a personal connection with a member of the family CVAST is now sponsoring.
“When the Taliban took over, (the family) went into hiding… the whole family was at risk. Then through Facebook, my various military friends reached out to me, saying… they need help. So I had originally just written a letter of support for (their) refugee application. Then, as time went on, I got involved with CVAST. Because of the fall of Afghanistan in August of 2021, a lot of citizens in the Valley became very concerned and wanted to do something to help. The group initially had a different family picked out, but that family got picked up by Australia, so I said ‘Hey, I know this family.’”
The family was first approved by the Anglican Diocese, then by the Canadian government, and now the file has been forwarded to Abu Dhabi for processing. (Abu Dhabi is the regional processing venue for everyone in Pakistan.)
“The Abu Dhabi processing centre will set them up with medical checks, do a security check/criminal record check, and then they will be coming to Canada,” said MacLeod.
The sponsorship team is responsible for all aspects of the family’s well-being for the first year after arrival.
“Once they arrive in Canada, we have an obligation for a full year to provide housing, food, clothing, dental, medical - all of it, for that first year, while they work on becoming independent,” said MacLeod. “This is part of the Government of Canada’s private refugee sponsorship program.”
The team is anticipating the family’s arrival sometime between March and July.
“We will be given very little notice. I know another group that was given 48 hours’ notice of their sponsor family’s arrival, so if that happens, they will be living in our spare room,” said MacLeod.
The father of the Afghan family is already fluent in English, and the other family members are continuing to improve their English skills. The three adults are all professionals (two doctors and one lawyer) and they hope to find employment in the Comox Valley upon arrival, pending any federal/provincial qualifications being met.
CVAST is currently looking for appropriate accommodations for the family - a two- or three-bedroom home would be ideal. Anyone with the ability to assist in that regard can email email@example.com
Ways to help
There are various ways to get involved with the process. To become a member of CVAST, email CVASTinfo@gmail.com
The team also has a private Facebook group: Comox Valley Afghan Sponsorship Team (CVAST).
Donations of clothing and furniture are also being accepted. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on what is needed.
Monetary donations are also being accepted.
Cash donations can be made (tax receipts will be provided) by emailing the team (CVASTinfo@gmail.com). Someone will pick up the cash.
Cheques can be written payable to Refugee Fund - Anglican Diocese of BC with CVAST in the memo line; email CVASTinfo@gmail.com for pick-up.
One-time or monthly donation plans are also available via CanadaHelps.org
Go to St. Philip-by-the-Sea Anglican Church charity, and select “Refugee Sponsorship - Comox Valley Afghan Sponsorship Team” on the church’s dropdown fund menu that reads “Apply your donation to a fund set up by this charity.”
CanadaHelps automatically issues tax receipts.
The group also has an account set up at the Courtenay Return-It Depot (Account #667). MacLeod can also arrange the pick-up of bottles. Email email@example.com for more information.