Two local churches are working together to bring a Syrian refugee family to Saanich, and they’re looking outside their congregations for others to join their cause.
The St. Peter’s and St. David-by-the-Sea Anglican churches have started an effort called Two Saints and Friends, appealing to the community for help with fundraising, donations and ensuring a smooth transition for an incoming refugee family.
Saanich resident Heather Hanson came up with the idea for Two Saints and Friends after speaking with her neighbour, who attends St. Peter’s. Knowing the Anglican Diocese of B.C. had already mandated to help the Syrian refugee crisis, she was inspired to reach out to the church.
“I’m not a member of the church at all, but I wanted to join up and help,” said Hanson. “That’s why we’re calling it Two Saints and Friends.
“I suggested that they could join together with the community because there’s a lot of people that probably would like to help but they’re not able to on their own.”
The Lakehill church was immediately on board with her idea and joined forces with the St. David-by-the-Sea in Cordova Bay to expand their reach into local communities.
“We’re kind of a figure eight-shaped parish,” Julie Poskitt of the Anglican Diocese said with a laugh.
“A committee of us settled on refugee sponsorship as something that would turn us outward into the community and where we would have the opportunity to work with community members on something that was of common interest to a lot of people.”
Two Saints and Friends has a short-term plan to bring in a small Syrian refugee family, which Hanson said can be sorted out relatively quickly.
“There are government-sponsored people, which means they’ve had their paperwork done, their security screening is done and the government is satisfied that they’re acceptable to come to Canada,” she said.
The group also has a long-term plan to bring in another refugee family, possibly from somewhere other than Syria. Poskitt said they are open to helping refugees from other countries that have been devastated.
“There are people who were waiting in refugee camps before the Syrian crisis broke,” said Poskitt. “There was a sense that those folks, who are being very patient and had faithfully completed all their paperwork and are waiting for sponsors, were being displaced by the Syrian crisis. We want to also respond to that.”
Currently, the churches are looking for help from residents and community associations with fundraising, bookkeeping and gathering donations such as furniture, household goods and clothing. They also need people who can help the refugee families transition to life on the Island, including translators, food support and people who can provide crisis intervention and PTSD counselling.
“We’re looking for community people who probably don’t have a church at all but want to be involved or would like to help with the refugee situation,” said Hanson.
On Sunday, Feb. 21, St. Peter’s is hosting a meeting open to the public to discuss the Two Saints and Friends initiative from 2:30 to 4 p.m. A relative of a refugee family is slated to speak at Sunday’s meeting about the conditions her relatives are facing and why they must leave the country.
Anyone interested in helping the effort is welcome to join the meeting and learn more about their work to help the Syrian refugee crisis. Those who can’t attend can email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about meeting and get involved.
“I feel like it is a chance to be more globally involved,” said Hanson of the group. “All of us benefit when we’re helping someone else.”