The Comox Valley will soon be home for a family looking to start a new life in Canada.
This spring, thanks to the Safehaven Refugee Sponsorship Group in the Valley, a Syrian family of seven will settle in the area after fleeing to safety, following the 2011 civil war between the Syrian government forces and factions fighting the Assad regime.
The deadly conflict left six million Syrians displaced as refugees within their own country, while another five million have fled for safety in other regions outside of Syria.
According to Safehaven spokesperson Gary Stevenson, the family filed its United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees paperwork more than two years ago to come to Canada.
“To find a refugee family who would benefit from the support of a private sponsorship group, Safehaven contacted the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA), a Canadian government-approved sponsorship agreement holder,” he explained.
Safehaven was given the sponsorship details on the Syrian family, which consists of a widowed mother of four children under 15 (two boys and two girls) and her parents (the grandparents to the four children).
Safehaven has grown to 16 individuals who raised all the necessary funds in eight months to support the family for its first year with a buffer for emergencies (medical, dental, temporary housing, flight billings and more).
“The generosity of the Comox Valley has been amazing,” said Stevenson. “Basically, in only eight months and with four fundraisers, we raised all the funds necessary to support this family. We are forever grateful to the six churches that have supported us and the many, many, private individuals who have donated funds or furnishings.”
As well, Safehaven has been sending a monthly living allowance overseas for 15 months to assist the family financially while it ‘shelters’ in Turkey. Refugees are not allowed to have jobs in Turkey, noted Stevenson.
The family has completed its Canadian embassy interviews and medical checks (which involved borrowing a car and packing all seven family members into it), followed by a 10-hour journey to the embassy and two days of interviews.
“We have just received news that their application is in the final stages and they should be arriving in Canada in the next few months. This will be over two years since Safehaven filed for this specific family. They do have extended family already living in Victoria, to help them in their transition to Canadian culture,” noted Stevenson.
The next step, he said, is to find housing for the family. While he admitted it is a challenge to find a home for a family of seven, he is optimistic.
“We are putting out the plea to the entire Comox Valley for assistance in finding housing for this rescued family. Ideally, we would need an urban four bedroom, two bath home but under the circumstances, we would consider any living situation that is workable.”
The home should be near a bus route and a school for the four children, as the family does not have a vehicle. The family will pay rent, and everything – from the rental agreement to the cable bill – will be under the family’s name in order for them to build credit as new residents to the country.
Stevenson said one challenge is that the organization does not know exactly when the family will come to Canada but will have about six weeks notice prior to arrival.
Anyone who may have suitable housing or is aware of a potential home for the family can contact Mike Day at 250-218-3332.