A group in Cloverdale is counting down the days to Monday, when four refugees they’ve sponsored to resettle in Canada will arrive after a long journey from Iran to Surrey.
Teunis Schouten is part of a core group of members of Pacific Community Church that is sponsoring the refugees, who will arrive just a little over a week after Canada’s 149th birthday.
The group began fundraising last fall, after being moved to act by the worsening crisis in Syria, launching a campaign to raise enough money to kickstart the plan to sponsor a refugee family.
But it wasn’t until May that the group was told to prepare for the arrival of four refugees – two couples in their mid-30s – from Iran.
At this point, not much else is known, only that they are arriving July 11 to start new lives in safety.
“With all the turmoil going on in this world, we feel blessed to have an opportunity to provide some peace and stability for these folks,” Schouten said.
The federal government promised to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees late last year, with 10,000 of those sponsored privately. (A group of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents may sponsor refugees.)
In this case, Pacific Community Church is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance of Canada, which is a sponsorship agreement holder with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, meaning Pacific can sponsor refugees from a pre-screened list who qualify to come to Canada.
Group sponsors pledge to support the refugees financially for up to one year, along with providing emotional support and assistance integrating into Canadian society.
Schouten said accommodation in the Cloverdale/Langley area has been arranged, but isn’t available until Aug. 1, sending the sponsor group in search of an interim residence in the meantime, likely a hotel.
Furniture has also been found for the newcomers, but the group is looking to provide a car to use as transportation.
“Transit is just awkward in the valley and will help with them getting around and possibly meeting other Iranians,” Schouten said.
Anyone who would like to donate an older car to the church will receive a tax deductible receipt for the market value of the car.
Financial donations are also welcome. While the sponsors have sufficient funds to “start the hands on journey,” they would like to top up the funds, he said.
The United Nations High Commission on Refugees says wars and persecution have driven more people from their homes than any time since it began keeping records.
A record 40.8 million people were forced to flee their homes within their own countries, in addition to 21.3 million refugees seeking safety outside of their home countries, the agency says.
For more on PCC’s refugee sponsorship effort, visit www.pacificcommunity.ca/ministries/refugee-sponsorship-effort or email firstname.lastname@example.org