By Globe News |

Vancity will support five refugee families over the next five years as part of a new privately sponsored refugee program announced today.

In collaboration with the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC), the credit union will fund the settlement costs for a refugee family for one full year to help them get their start in Canada. A different family will be identified and supported in each of the next four years.

“Vancity has a long history of supporting newcomers in our communities, and this new program builds on that work,” says Catherine Ludgate, Vancity’s senior manager of community investment. “A refugee’s first year is always particularly challenging, and programs like this help to ensure a warmer welcome and a smoother transition.”

In addition to providing financial support, Vancity will enroll 10 of its employees in a mentorship program through ISSofBC. These new settlement mentors will offer friendship and assistance to the arriving family as they explore their new communities.

“It’s incredibly important for new refugees to not only have strong family and community connections, but also to have the support of organizations like Vancity to help navigate Canadian society,” says Chris Friesen, ISSofBC director of settlement services.

The family of author Ahmad Danny Ramadan has been selected as the first to participate in the program. Ramadan himself came to Canada in 2014 with the help of Rainbow Refugee and has since published the novel The Clothesline Swing, based on his experience as a LGBTQ Syrian refugee finding a new home in Canada.

“It has been a long journey of reconciliation between me and my sister,” says Ramadan. “I’m hoping that bringing her family from Jordan will allow them to grow here in Canada’s open society, heal from the wounds of the past and rebuild our relationship.”

Ramadan’s sister will be joined by her husband and four-year-old daughter when they arrive in Canada, which is expected in the summer of 2020.

Jan O’Brien, chair of Vancity’s board of directors, spoke at an event today held at ISSofBC’s Welcome Centre, where the credit union has employees working onsite four days a week to help newcomers orient themselves to Canada’s banking system. “Reuniting families is a lynchpin of this new personal sponsorship program. It encourages community and helps newcomers maintain stability in trying times,” she said.

As part of today’s announcement, Vancity is challenging other businesses to support refugees by also committing to fund a family per year for each of the next five years. The credit union’s goal is to enlist 50 other corporate participants in this challenge, and for each of them to launch their own campaigns. The challenge, beyond the funding, also includes the involvement of staff from each organization in mentorship of the family in their new home and community, and a commitment to investigate job opportunities at the sponsoring business for the adults in the family.

“This commitment has the potential to change lives, and to enrich the communities where we all work and live,” said O’Brien. “Today, we are calling on organizations throughout B.C., and across Canada, to join us providing the supports that will help welcome more newcomers into Canada.”

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