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In 2016, the three congregations of the United Church of Canada (UCC) on the Semiahmoo Peninsula, in partnership with the White Rock Muslim Association (WRMA), sponsored the resettlement of a refugee family from Syria. This joint refugee sponsorship was made possible through the generous financial support and many volunteers from the UCC congregations and the WRMA. This opportunity to work together with our Muslim neighbours on the Semiahmoo Peninsula on a project of compassion and service, has been a rich and rewarding experience for all involved.
In October, 2015 a family of six, including a disabled father with special medical needs, a mother and four adult children were referred to us and they arrived in Canada on January 28, 2016. The 12-month sponsorship will be completed January 28, 2017 and volunteers will continue to assist with resettlement when requested.
In addition to providing a furnished apartment, specialized medical care, access to language training and employment programs, an annual income of $42,000 was provided for household and personal expenses. Uninsured dental expenses totalled an additional $10,000 by the end of December 2016, and of this total, over ½ of the cost was very generously donated by two dentists, one from the UCC and one from the WRMA. The family’s doctor was also from the WRMA and we had the generous assistance of a professional interpreter from the Muslim community throughout the sponsorship. Despite excellent medical care, the health of the father was precarious and he died unexpectedly of a heart attack in December. His tragic loss compounded the suffering the family has experienced over recent years. Members of the UCC and the WRMA joined the family in prayer at the Surrey Jami’a Mosque on the day of his burial.
The young adults in the family have made significant strides over the past year. The two sisters enrolled in an ESL program at the Invergarry Adult Education Centre and progressed from Level 2 to Level 5 of the seven level program. They hope to pursue post-secondary studies in the future. Their two brothers have also improved their language skills and by the end of December, one was employed fulltime at a commercial bakery and the other was participating in a job-readiness program.