If the Castlegar Refugee Project (CRP) has its way, we will see a refugee family from a war torn country in the Middle East arriving in town this year, possibly as early as the spring. The group had its first organizational meeting in October and has been meeting every few weeks since.
Rosemary Manarin, chair of the CRP, explained that she wanted to respond to the present refugee crisis and see the group formed, “The UN HCR has seen unprecedented numbers in the world in general and so I thought it was time that Castlegar stepped up.”
The group has done a lot of research and put a lot of thought into their plan for sponsoring a refugee family. They have decided to go with what is known as a blended route, where part of the funding is raised locally, and then Citizen and Immigration Canada also steps in and helps with support. The CRP must raise $18,000 before they can submit their sponsorship application. They must also supply all of the setup costs for the family and expenses for their first month here. The government kicks in with support for months two through seven, and then the CRP takes over for the rest of the first year with the goal being that the family will be self-sufficient by that time. The group needs to raise a minimum of $20,000 to $30,000 to cover these costs.
Another area that they have given thought to is the make up of the family they will sponsor. The family will come from a UN refugee camp where they have already been vetted by that agency. It will include children, at least one employable adult, and have between four and seven members. “Our group has decided that we would like to sponsor a family with children, because we feel Castlegar is very well equipped to deal with children,” said Manarin.
The CRP is a recognized constituent group, under the auspices of the Anglican Diocese as the sponsorship agreement holder with Immigration Canada. The committee is made up of ten members, and already has about thirty volunteers lined up to assist with everything from finding furniture and housing to doctors and dentists. Manarin says the committee is “very dedicated, enthusiastic and hard working.”
“What we really want is a positive outlook on having these refugees coming to Castlegar,” Manarin emotionally responded when asked what the group needs from the community. “The people we are getting are living in UN camps, living in those big white tents you see on TV. They sleep on the ground, get the very basic necessities. It’s very difficult, some of them have been waiting for years.”
The other things the group needs are monetary donations, gifts and in-kind support. Donations can be made through St. David’s Anglican Church, with cheques made out to the church, with Castlegar Refugee Project in the memo. Donations can also be deposited directly into accounts set up at Heritage Credit Union and Kootenay Savings. Heritage Credit Union has offered to match donations of up to $2,500.