DJC Sponsors a Syrian Refugee Family

DJCIn the Fall of 2015 the Danforth Jewish Circle committed to sponsoring a Syrian refugee family —

We’ve now come to the end of that official “sponsorship” journey and feel blessed and very enriched by this experience. 

Watch this video that looks back on our journey.

And read more about our experience below…

The DJC’s sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family officially ended on March 20, 2018 after one year in Canada. It has been a milestone for our community and an amazing experience for us as volunteers with many rewards and a few challenges along the way.

More information about this very heart warming, experience is below.

OVERVIEW

  • Fall 2015: DJC community raised funds to support a Syrian refugee family of seven – parents Salah and Aleefa with their 5 children ranging in age from 2 to 13 years.
  • Social Justice Committee managed the sponsorship and provided settlement services with support from JIAS Toronto, our sponsorship agreement holder.
  • Prior to family’s arrival:
    • Attended training workshops.
    • Organized information and education sessions for the DJC community.
    • Collected all furniture, household items and clothing for the family.
    • Recruited a settlement team of 11 and developed a plan for the first few months after the family’s arrival.
    • Recruited translators and other volunteers for special tasks.
  • Settlement team members acted as leads for various functions, including overall coordination of settlement activities, orientation to community, education, health and dental care, clothing, housing, recreation, banking, technology and communications to the DJC community.
  • We’ve been very fortunate to have leads with experience in areas such as social work, education, health care, project management and communications.
  • Recruited two retired teachers to tutor the children in English and math on a weekly basis.
  • In September, the DJC held a welcome picnic to introduce the family to our community. In April, the family and our volunteers marked the one-year anniversary of their arrival in Canada with a celebration at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

WORKING WITH THE FAMILY

  • They have had numerous appointments and continue to have a very full schedule.
  • They have told us they really did not expect as much help as they received from us and are very appreciative.
  • When asked last year what they liked best about Toronto, they said 1) they feel safe 2) it’s so green here 3) they feel at home here. Having experienced discrimination as Kurds, they said they felt accepted by us and by the community.
  • When asked what they found most difficult, they said 1) the language barrier 2) getting around on the buses and 3) using car seats for the kids (the seats have to constantly be moved from one car to another.)

CURRENT SITUATION

  • While helping the family move to greater independence, our settlement team will continue to provide non-financial support to the family into their second year in Canada, as needed.
  • The key barrier they now face to full independence is English competency; both parents are continuing their ESL studies.
  • Salah has found a part-time job in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Scarborough, which may become full-time soon. The family is temporarily relying on Ontario Works for support.
  • On their own initiative, both parents took and passed a 4 month food handler program, necessary for employment in Ontario restaurants.
  • Salah and Aleefa are managing banking, shopping, bill-paying, taking transit to their programs and getting to appointments with Arabic-speaking providers on their own.
  • The children are catching up in school and rapidly learning English. One child is experiencing some learning and adjustment difficulties, for which the settlement team has arranged remedial help.
  • The 4 older children have been involved in various recreation programs. They loved day camp last summer and will attend again this year, courtesy of free spaces provided by Seneca College.

SOME KEY LESSONS FROM OUR SPONSORSHIP

  • Settlement work is very labour-intensive.
  • The language barrier is the main challenge.
  • It helps to have some retired team members who tend to have more time than others working full-time.
  • Empowerment versus creating dependency is key.
  • Values and expectations may differ between the sponsor group and the family; there is a need to be aware of one’s own cultural biases.

 VIDEO REFLECTIONS

Click on the video link here to watch a fifteen minute video about the experiences of settlement team members and see footage of special times with the family.

THANK YOU!

We would like to thank all the volunteers who made this sponsorship possible:

SETTLEMENT TEAM:

  • Diana Chastain
  • Margot Dawson
  • Allen Flaming
  • Kathy Glazier (Project Lead, Syrian Refugee Sponsorship Project)
  • JoAnne Hunter
  • Sharron Kusiar (Chair, DJC Social Justice Committee)
  • Karen Robbins
  • Liat Ross
  • Deborah Shore
  • Amy Steele
  • Eve-Lynn Stein

CHILDREN’S TUTORS:

  • Marjorie Gann (ESL)
  • Donna Koffman (ESL)
  • Betty Sharpe (Math)

TRANSLATORS:

  • Eiman Nabag
  • Rania Emara
  • Anfal Al-Ahmad

DJC VOLUNTEERS:

  • Joanna Birenbaum
  • Max Brem
  • Sheri Cohen
  • Ian Dawson
  • Samara Enchin
  • Susan Friedman
  • Debra Glass
  • Alan Gotlib
  • Wendy Gross
  • Delia Jacobson
  • Misha Jot
  • Tamara Jordan
  • Justin Jose
  • Orev Katz
  • Diane Kilcoyne
  • Christel Kleitsch
  • Allie Lehmann
  • Michelle Marsellus
  • Tim McNab
  • Dan Mullen
  • Lynne Raskin
  • David Ross
  • Liz Scanlon
  • Evelyn Tauben
  • Felicia Vengroff
  • Ellen Waxman
  • Paula Warren

AND SPECIAL THANKS TO:

LOOKING BACK TO WHEN IT ALL STARTED… (Fall 2015)

It was incredible — but in the short week in-between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement; the community stepped forward and responded with donations of over $53,000 (ultimately over $58,000) to privately sponsor a Syrian refugee family in need. The total was funded at least partly by a lemonade and cookie sale by DJC Children’s Jewish Studies students, Isaac and Jonah Shore McNab!

The DJC Social Justice Committee immediately went into action working with our Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) agency, the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) to submit an application to the government (Citizenship & Immigration Canada-CIC). Just recently we had confirmation from JIAS that the application is “moving forward” and we hope to meet the Syrian family we are sponsoring by late spring or early summer. They are a Kurdish Muslim family of seven (with five children who are: 11, 10, 8, 3 and 1 years-old). They also have family here (an “anchor family”) who are helping us to sponsor them and will work with us and JIAS to welcome the newcomers and help them to settle into Canada and their new home.

We are very excited (and challenged too) by this new journey that we are on. The response from our community has continued to be strong, thoughtful and multi-layered. People have donated their time, their furniture — even their special family heirlooms to help us prepare a home and also store everything until the family’s arrival. We are also grateful to Real Storage, the storage company near Eastern Avenue and Leslie Street who donated a storage locker to the DJC for all of the items we have collected thus far.

Read about this story as it unfolds and help us by donating your time, your ideas and your efforts. We will post here regularly and let you know what’s happening and how you can help.

The Danforth Jewish Circle Social Justice Committee @ djcSocialJustice@gmail.com


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