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Syrian Familes Update

January 24, 2019

St. Paul’s is actively involved in several refugee sponsorship projects!

Our church, along with five area Presbyterian churches, sponsored our first family in 2016. That family of six is well settled in Hamilton; a group of volunteers continue to provide tutoring, friendship and practical assistance as they integrate into the community.

Application was made in 2017 to sponsor privately a second Syrian family, a father with three sons. There were complications with the application in Lebanon, and we and the father had accepted that he most likely would not be coming to Canada. That is, until mid-January when an email arrived announcing final approval and flight arrangements for February 2019.

Our “Loonies for Linens” campaign is to purchase pillows, sheets, blankets and mattress/box spring protectors. Contributions may go in the loonie jar in St. Andrew’s Hall from January 27 to February 17. (If you prefer, place your donation in the collection plate, marked “Refugee donation” on your envelop.)

Last June, we were asked by Presbyterian World Service & Development to assume care of an Eritrean family. The family of 3, mom, dad, and son age 2, were sponsored financially by a Presbyterian church in Kitchener. However, the little boy’s complex medical needs required the family to live in Hamilton. Several project members are providing very intense support for many medical appointments and transportation.

Mom has two children who did not accompany her when she escaped the brutal 20-year war between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The girls lived with their grandmother in Eritrea until that war ended last summer; they are now living in a UN refugee camp in northern Ethiopia. Under Canada’s immigration provisions, there is a one-year window after a parent’s arrival to bring minor children to Canada. The application to come to Canada is provisionally approved. The International Organization for Migration will be making travel arrangements for the girls to come from Ethiopia.

This family speaks an Eritrean language, Tigrinya. Although their English is still very basic at this point, we do manage to communicate. Dad has been working in a factory for almost six months. Mom is always a gracious hostess, offering refreshments at every visit.

The six churches collected household goods and furniture in 2017 for the Syrian family. The donations were exceedingly generous, more than one family would need. When it seemed as if the Syrian family was not coming, it was time to put at least some of the items to use rather than storing them in a garage.   

Last summer and fall we were able to supply furniture and basic household items for two refugee claimant families from Central America. Without Canadian sponsors, both families are eternally grateful for this life-changing help, as it meant they did not have to spend precious dollars to set up house. They are off to an excellent start and we are confident that they will do well in Canada.

Each of these five families has very different routes that have brought them among us, living through wars, corruption or violence. They are very thankful to be here. These families are inspirational and a reminder of grace and courage in the most difficult circumstances, and of the freedoms we enjoy in Canada. Please remember them in your prayers.


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Syrian Families

Supporting New Families to Canada

The Call

You will know that the desperate exodus of Syrians fleeing from the horrific violence in their country over the past few years has been referred to as “the worst humanitarian crisis of our times.” More than twelve million Syrians have fled their homes (half of these are children) and four million are refugees. Most of the refugees are in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Additionally, in 2015, more than seven hundred thousand risked their lives to make perilous journeys to Europe.

Over the course of several months in 2017, a call came out from members of churches within the Presbytery of Hamilton, asking what could collectively be done to help alleviate some measure of the unrelenting despair witnessed daily on media broadcasts. From this call emerged an exciting mission of hope, founded in the heart of God’s love, compassion, and grace.

The Response

A remarkable partnership among people from several of the congregations within the Presbytery has “taken flight” over the past few months. From Erskine, Knox Dundas, Knox Waterdown, MacNab, St. Cuthbert’s, St. Paul’s Hamilton, and West Flamborough, volunteers have stepped forward to offer support and assistance to the “Refugee Sponsorship Project.”

The progress of “The Project” has moved along exponentially over the course of a mere two months. Prior to our first “official” meeting in December, a November workshop was organized at Knox Waterdown, at which Rob Shropshire of Presbyterian World Service and Development gave an insightful presentation regarding the logistics of refugee sponsorship.


The Many Parts of the Body

The leadership and structure of the committee came together very quickly. There are six committee “leads” with responsibilities in defined areas, who are supported and advised by the gifted contributions of several other people from both within and outside of the committee.

Finding Our Way

It was determined that we would pursue sponsorship of our family within the parameters of the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program (BVOR). This program is a cost-sharing arrangement whereby Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Sponsorship Agreement Holders (in our case the Presbyterian Church of Canada) both contribute to financially supporting the refugees. Only one congregation within a group of churches participating in a sponsorship is permitted to sign the sponsorship application, and this responsibility has been assumed by Knox Waterdown. Other congregations are being invited to support the sponsorship (whether it be financially, through committee work, in the collection of needed items, “hands on” support, or prayer) and send letters of endorsement from their respective Sessions.

There are a couple of resources that the committee is being mindful of as they navigate through the journey of the sponsorship process. One is Leading with Care,, and the other is the Handbook for Sponsoring Groups from the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program,


Anne Church (St. Paul’s Hamilton) --- “Goods and Chattels” (the collection of furnishings, housewares, linen, food staples, etc.,)

George Bulmer (Knox Waterdown) ---Finance (fundraising, budget development)

Wim Feunekes (Knox Dundas) --- Housing (securing and supporting housing needs)

Liz Sadler (Erskine) ---“Community Links” (developing linkages for family with respect to health and dental care, interpreters, language programs, education, transportation, etc.)

Rev. John Duff ---“Core Support” (The group of volunteers who will be working directly with the arriving family from Syria. From arrival at the airport, to demonstrating household fixtures and appliances, setting up for internet, helping with shopping and public transit, there are many opportunities for patient, cheerful volunteers ready to accompany the newly arrived family with empathy, integrity and respect). (905) 648-2987

Brenda Marriott (Knox Waterdown) ---Project Manager (overall communication and coordination) (905)-690-9408

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