I have been woefully remiss in my blog posting of late. There is good reason for this, though, I promise.
Let me explain: in the fall of 2015, I became involved with the Sackville Refugee Response Coalition (SRRC): a voluntary alliance of organizations and individuals formed to engage Sackvillains in welcoming refugee families as new arrivals to our town.
In response to the Syrian refugee crisis, like many other communities in Canada, we applied to become Blended Office Visa-Referred, or BVOR, sponsors. This program matches refugees identified for resettlement by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) with private sponsors (like the SRRC) in Canada. In short order, thanks to the generosity of many Sackvillains, we had raised enough money to sponsor three families. We amassed a huge volunteer database, and with that were able to identify various committees (Finance, Education, Housing, Welcome/Transition) and assign our volunteers to head up and serve on those committees. Mr. Sackvillain and I found ourselves on the Welcome Committee, charged with assisting the family with settlement and eventual transition to Canadian life.
Due to the overwhelming response from groups such as ours, arrival and settlement of our families was rather delayed. In the meantime, we went ahead and rented apartments, held furniture and clothing drives, collected dishes, pots and pans, and other kitchen items…and we waited. We held meetings with settlement groups whose families had already arrived; made lists of translators and folks we could call on for transportation needs…and we waited. We set up the apartments: moved in the furniture and dishes, put non-perishables in the cupboards…and still we waited. Life went on here: the SRRC chair left on a long-planned 3-month trip to India, so we appointed an interim chair for the Steering Committee during his absence. The chair of the Welcome Committee made arrangements to be away for the month of July. Our committee member who works for the government of Canada was called away on an assignment.
Finally – unbelievably, almost, given the time that we had spent waiting and hoping – we received flight information for our first family! The email came in on June 29, and quickly sped its way past those on a ‘need-to-know’ basis. With our SRRC chair out of the country, and the Welcome committee chair ready to leave for vacation imminently, we tried not to panic! Thankfully, the interim chair of the SRRC was Rev. Jeff Murray, who, despite his crazy-busy life, went out of his way to give the Welcome Committee enormous support during this time.
Our first family arrived on July 18, 2016. I am so pleased to report that my friends are happily settled, and well on their way to becoming Sackvillains themselves!
Our second family arrived in late September: they also love it here, and we are currently exploring family reunification with a son in another part of Canada.
So: the reason I have been AWOL these last few weeks is because we finally got word that our third family is coming! They will be arriving this week, so there has been a flurry of activity to get everything ready. Mr. Sackvillain and I have decided to pass on the Welcome Committee torch to another group, but we will be standing right behind them, ready to assist as needed.