Spurred on by the current Syrian refugee crisis, by Pope Francis’s call to action, and by questions from several parishioners, a group of concerned parishioners of St. Monica’s Parish suggested a proposal to privately sponsor a Syrian family.
On February 21, 2016, a meeting was held to gauge whether there was enough interest to look more closely at that possibility. Norbert Piché, a St. Monica’s parishioner who works for the Jesuit Refugee Service, presented information on sponsorship, noting the financial responsibility for the family’s first year in Canada but also the ongoing moral responsibility. Refugees are assured of medical coverage by the government and receive some financial assistance for French courses and for children.
Because there seemed to be enough interest, with approximately 30 people signing up to help in some form or other, a meeting was held with the pastor and wardens of the parish. It was agreed that no parish funds would be used for the project. All funds would need to be assured by individual or group donations before the parish would accept the project.
All parishioners were offered the opportunity to commit to the project and the funds were subsequently assured. On June 4, 2016, the Refugee Sponsoring Committee received from the pastor and wardens the permission to proceed.
The committee had the heart-wrenching task of choosing one family to sponsor from the list of five suggested families. The Alrayes family, pictured below, a Sunni Syrian couple with four children, was chosen.
Ziad, Eman, and their children have been living in Jordan since they were forced to flee Syria in 2013. Ziad had been targeted by the Syrian government because he worked as a driver and general handyman at a hospital that continued to treat civilians. During his detainment in Syria he was kept in solitary confinement for an extended period and was tortured.
The three older children have trauma related to the war, as they were living close to an active war-zone. The youngest son suffers from asthma.
Application forms need to be approved by the Québec and federal governments before a family can be officially accepted into Canada. The forms for the Alrayes family were sent in to the Quebec government on June 30, 2016. They were then sent on to the case processing centre in Winnipeg for federal approval on in August, 2016. In January 2017 the application forms were sent to the visa office in Jordan. The family had their interview on May 9, 2017. Following this interview, if everything went well, they will be requested to submit to medical exams and then they will have an orientation to Canadian society. Security checks are last before the final decision and issuance of the visa. The Canadian interviewer said that hopefully the family would be in Canada by the end of 2017.
As they and we await, somewhat impatiently at times, their arrival in Canada, we are supporting them financially by providing money for medicine for the father and access to transportation so that three of the children can attend school. We are also in contact by means of e-mail letters which are posted on this website.