The UCC Refugee Sponsorship Group is one step closer to helping a Syrian refugee family after receiving Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada confirmation that its application had been received and being given a file number.
“While this news may not seem like much progress, it is a major step towards welcoming the Syrian refugee family to Canada,” says Upper Canada College Prep teacher and group member Kathryn O’Brien. “An official file number with the Canadian government means we can track the progress of our application and work on advocating to quickly bring the family to Canada.”
Lifeline Syria matched the UCC Refugee Sponsorship Group with a Syrian family last spring, and the group has raised enough money to support it for a year. The Farastaki family was originally from Damascus and has five children under the age of 16. They have extended family members living close to Toronto but are still living in a refugee camp in Jordan.
UCC Upper School teacher and UCC Refugee Sponsorship Group member Craig Parkinson says the group’s file will be sent to an overseas visa office for further processing and interviews.
“After interviews take place, an approval or refusal letter will be sent to us once an officer has reviewed the sponsorship undertaking and rendered a decision. At present, Citizenship and Immigration Canada calculates a processing time of nine months before this next step takes place.”
The UCC Refugee Sponsorship Group has submitted an application status enquiry in an effort to receive more information.
“When we began this process, we had hoped that we would be welcoming a refugee family in 2016,” says O’Brien. “Over the past year, the government has restructured the way in which they are processing refugee claimants and has closed many overseas offices responsible for processing applications.
“As a result, our original timeline shifted, and we are now anticipating that we may be welcoming the family sometime during 2017. As we continue to learn, this process is not necessarily linear, timelines are flexible and we need to be patient.”
A fundraising goal of $50,000 was set to support the family, and generous non-tax-deductible donations from members of the UCC community helped achieve that. A number of other initiatives to raise funds for UCC Refugee Sponsorship Group and awareness of the refugee crisis have also taken place at the College.
Boys in Senior Kindergarten to Grade 4 held a read-a-thon to raise more than $11,000 as part of the Prep’s “Faces of Change” initiative. A casual dress day was held at the Prep to raise money and Prep teachers took part in a “push-up challenge” that raised more than $700.
Upper School students held a house pledge week that raised $5,553. The Year 2 McHugh’s House advising group raised $335 from a bake sale.
A Syrian refugee sponsorship club was started at the Upper School and a Horizons-type project that brought Syrian refugee children to UCC to play sports, take part in art activities and have lunch was launched.