Residents plan to bring refugees to Port Alberni

More than 100 Port Alberni residents are working hard towards bringing Syrian refugees to the city.

More than 100 Port Alberni residents are working hard towards bringing Syrian refugees to the city.

According to Port Alberni Refugee Sponsorship Committee organizer Pamela Day, two groups are working to bring two families to the Alberni Valley.

“We held a community gathering in September,” Day said. The movement is a partnership between the Catholic and Anglican churches.

“From there we ended up forming two constituency groups falling under the Anglican diocese in Victoria who are a sponsorship agreement holder,” she said.

Being under a sponsorship agreement means that an agreement to bring in refugees is already in place with the federal government, shortening the process.

“It gives us a real leap ahead,” Day said.

The two groups are differentiated by what refugees they will bring in.

“One is a blended office referral program which is looking for the person or family which is in most need. The other group is more specific—they’re doing a private sponsorship so that they can go for a specific family.”

Day is a part of the former group.

“We just wanted to bring in whatever family was in most need,” she said.

That group completed its final day of training on Saturday and is gathering funds.

“We’ll be starting to do our settlement planning. That’s finding a house, making sure we have enough money, all those sorts of things, and then we’ll apply for our family.”

Day said that although the groups are working with the Anglican church, it’s by no means a religious movement.

“The people on the team are from all walks of life. You have people from all different faiths or no particular faith.”

The timeline of refugee resettlement in Port Alberni remains uncertain. Refugees are already beginning to arrive on the West Coast, including a family in Cowichan Bay.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take and we’re not sure what the effect of the current federal government program to bring in Syrians will have on our process,” Day said.

“It’s usually been a very slow process but we’re hopeful it may speed up with the government being so focused.”

The PARSC blended visa office group needs to fundraise $20,000–25,000 in order to sponsor the family for its first year in the Alberni Valley.

“We have nearly half of that already just through word of mouth,” she said.

“We’ll pay for their housing, their food, everything for one year. The idea is to get them on their feet. Language training, a healthcare card, all of these things that we take for granted.”

The committee is taking donations (tax receipts will be provided) and the Guru Nanak Sikh Society is hosting a benefit dinner at Echo Centre on Dec. 19 from 5:30–9 p.m. The minimum donation is $20 and tickets must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets e-mail pamela.day@shaw.ca or lesliewright@telus.net. For more information, visit www.parsc.ca.