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  • Tell me about BVOR-sponsored families in Stratford.
    Recent Arrivals The most recent families have been from Syria, Sudan, and Somalia. Most have lived as refugees in other countries before arriving here. Refugee Families The BVOR refugee families have ranged in size from 3 to 10. Children have ranged in age from infants to high school. Very few refugee children, especially girls, were able to attend school, sometimes for years. Education and Community Stratford schools have been welcoming and supportive, and several of the students have graduated from secondary school. Many of the children have engaged in a variety of community activities, such as sports and volunteering. Several of the families have had children since they settled here. Language Proficiency in English varies, but is usually very weak, which is why the adults are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs as a priority for their first year. Employment Employment levels have been high for the males, all of whom have worked in various occupations in their home countries. Because of safety concerns, most women have previously not worked outside of the home, but several have entered the workforce in Stratford, as have a number of their older children. Religion Their religious backgrounds have been Christian and Muslim.
  • Why is Stratford Welcomes Refugees (SWR) supporting sponsoring refugees from places other than Ukraine?
    The short answer is “because the need continues to be so great” in many areas of the world. There are currently 26.4 million refugees living in developing countries who have been waiting for years for the chance to be resettled in a new country they can call home. Almost half of these refugees are children. The Canadian government is welcoming Ukrainians as temporary workers and students, as well as through the family reunification program. Other refugees have been formally identified through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). While all arrive in Canada as permanent residents, some are fully government sponsored, and others arrive through the Blended Visa Office-Referred program. This program was paused due to COVID and was reinstated on April 5, 2022. There is a unique opportunity for Stratford Welcomes Refugees to welcome refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Kenya, Syria, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). SWR has experience in working with BVOR refugees, and supporting BVOR sponsorship groups.
  • How do I make a financial donation to Stratford Welcomes Refugees?
    SWR has paused its appeal for financial donations while we concentrate on supporting incoming families.
  • How can I donate clothing and household goods?
    Sponsorship groups will collect the things the families need when each specific family has been matched.
  • How does the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program work?
    BVOR refugees are screened by both the UNHCR and the Canadian Government. They generally have specific needs (e.g., medical, small children, pregnancy, and/or war-related injuries). Many are considered to be vulnerable in the communities to which they have fled. Usually they have been refugees for some time, and do not live in their home country. BVOR refugees are ‘travel ready’. The BVOR program is a “blended” program because it is a cost-sharing arrangement whereby Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) pays for six months of financial support, and private sponsors contribute start-up costs and an additional six months of financial support. For a family of four this requires about $24,000 to be raised by the sponsorship group. Sponsors are also responsible for providing settlement support to the refugees for the whole length of the sponsorship period (typically 12 months). This includes start-up support (finding housing, making connections with doctors and dentists, getting children into school, registering parents in English as a Second Language programs, banking, etc.) In 2015, Stratford raised enough money to support five families through the BVOR program. With careful resource management, the money was stretched to bring 7 families. More information about the BVOR program may be found HERE.
  • What input does the sponsoring group have in relation to the actual refugees?
    Sponsorship groups have some choice over which family they support. Named refugees are not supported under the BVOR program, and the refugee’s faith is not a factor in the selection process.
  • How can I help?
    There are lots of opportunities to help. Here are the main ones. 1. Form or join a sponsorship group. Sponsorship groups are often connected to churches, but can be supported by other organizations, or community based. Sponsorship groups have to be approved through MCCO. Sponsorship groups are responsible for: providing settlement support to the refugees for the whole length of the sponsorship period (typically 12 months). start-up support (finding housing, making connections with doctors and dentists, getting children into school, registering parents in English as a Second Language programs, banking, etc.) six months of financial support at Resettlement Assistance Program rates, using money from the SWR Giving Registry. 2. Volunteer with an established sponsorship group to help with community integration, and specific tasks such as: driving people to medical appointments, sports activities, ESL classes, and shopping; socializing with groups in Stratford connecting them to organizations such as the mosque, churches, the Y, the Local Community Food Centre, etc. 3. Donate to the sponsorship fund. 4, Donate requested household goods to sponsorship groups. 5. Most importantly, welcome refugees at your schools, workplaces, places of worship, recreational activities and community events. FOR MORE INFORMATION, GO TO OUR "VOLUNTEERS" PAGE.
  • What ongoing support is there for refugees in Stratford?
    In addition to the support they receive from their sponsorship groups, BVOR refugees can obtain additional help for schooling, learning English, obtaining employment, translation services, etc. A settlement worker who is familiar with refugee issues and procedures is available through the Y, and can connect them to a variety of services. The Multicultural Association of Perth Huron is also active in supporting newcomers to Stratford. Previously settled BVOR refugee families have also extended support to newly arrived refugees.
  • What has been Stratford’s history with refugees?
    Stratford’s long and proud history of supporting families who are seeking a better life dates back to the 1800s. Sometimes our welcome has been linked to crises, such as WWII, and the wars in the Ukraine and Syria. There are ongoing and urgent refugee needs in many countries such as Afghanistan, Sudan, and Somalia. These refugees get lost in the crisis-based approach, and the BVOR program is designed to support them. According to the UNHCR there are 26.4 million refugees in the world, almost half of whom are children under the age of 18. Since 1980, over 1,000,000 refugees have come to Canada. Stratford has successfully settled refugees from a variety of countries.
  • How do I sponsor a family member or friend?
    Please refer to the links on our Resources page.
  • Why is Stratford Welcomes Refugees working with the Mennonite Central Committee of Ontario (MCCO)?
    BVOR sponsorship groups must work through an organization that is a formal Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the federal government. MCCO provided invaluable support with the first set of BVOR refugees and has expertise in the entire range of supporting both refugees, and sponsorship groups. MCCO is responsible for the program’s finances, including all of the reporting to the federal government, and issuing charitable receipts for donations. Financial donations are made directly to MCCO, which also handles disbursements with advice from SWR. SWR does not collect or receive any money.
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