Iraqi Refugee Children, Photo UK Dept. for International Development 2014
The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The stories, images and sheer number of the displaced are staggering: more than 60 million, the largest human displacement level on record. We must respond with urgency and commitment to help our fellow human beings facing tragedy. And we know that we can. Welcoming our neighbors in a world where borders should not isolate us from concern for the dignity of every person, and working together with others, we can give opportunities for a new life to families fleeing war, famine and persecution…and build a more humane world in the process.
A History of Humanitarianism
Unitarians and Universalists have a history of helping refugees. Starting at least as early as the Enlightenment (eg. expulsion of the Socinian Brethren from Poland, 1658) this history was born in a Europe where professing the wrong beliefs often resulted in persecution or death. In North America, the tradition continued with Unitarians and Universalists helping former slaves escape the Southern U.S. to freedom in Canada and New England via the Underground Railroad.
Putting into practice principles such as the inherent worth and dignity of every person and belief in the right of conscience, many UUs have risked their lives to help with humanitarian causes such as aiding refugees. Some notable examples from more recent times include the Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp (see Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War) Unitarians who helped save hundreds of imperilled political dissidents and Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe in World War II. Also, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova, whose humanitarian and refugee work took her to post-war Europe, Africa and Asia – conflict zones where the need was greatest. One of Canada’s most recognized humanitarians and founder of the Unitarian Service Committee, Hitschmanova mobilized a generation of Canadians to help others in need, shaping the caring society that Canada has become today.
Lotta Hitschmanova, founder of the Unitarian Service Committee Canada.
In modern times, the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax (UUCH) has been involved in sponsoring refugee families during successive refugee waves, such as the Vietnamese Boat People in the early 1980s, Kosovars in the late 1990s, Afghans in the 2000s.
UUCH’s Diana Miller with Vietnamese refugee Tran Family, Jan 1981
The Unprecedented Need Today
The crisis in the Middle East has resulted in refugee numbers not seen since World War II. Millions of Syrian families, in particular, have been forced to flee their homes. At the same time, the need in other parts of the world has not abated. UUCH has been active in sponsoring and settling, or helping settle, a number of families recently.
Your donation to refugee efforts will help save a refugee family and bring them to safety in Canada. Settlement costs for an average couple is $25,000, or up to $48,000 for a family of five. Donations are fully tax-receiptable (Registered Charity # 108160813RR0001):
A donation of Costs you only* And pays for
$20 $9.76 A family meal
$50 $24.40 Telephone service for one month
$100 $48.79 Yearly school supplies for one child
$250 $135.08 Crib, blankets & set up supplies for a baby
$500 $322.58 Apartment rent for one month
* Estimates only; your personal tax situation may vary. Estimates based on 2017 CRA top bracket qualification for tax credits and first-time donor 25% super credit.
For inquiries about donations, contact the office (uuchurch-at-eastlink.ca or 902-429-5500). Cheques can be mailed to the address at bottom if “Refugee Sponsorship” is written the notes line. Interac eTransfers (email electronic transfer) can be accepted at uuchurch-at-eastlink.ca. Charitable donation tax receipts will be automatically issued at year-end (January) for donations above $20 that include a return mailing address in the email, cheque or envelope. Donations can also be accepted online via CanadaHelps.
Working Together to Make a Difference
The Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH): an organization authorized by the federal government to select and settle refugees in Canada. UUCH usually focuses on refugee settlements in Nova Scotia, though we occasionally partner with other organizations, such as the Canadian Unitarian Council, other Unitarian groups, or Rainbow Refugee groups to assist in the settlement of refugees farther afield. However, we are severely restricted in the number of people we can apply for each year, and our human resources capacity is currently stretched to the limit. We need your help: if you are interested in making a positive difference in the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people, please contact us at 902-429-5500.
UUCH works primarily with local groups – called ‘Constituent Groups’ – in Atlantic Canada in need of an SAH, who are prepared to fundraise for a refugee undertaking and settle refugees. Note that there are always more applicant groups than can be accommodated, but please contact us early in the year if your group is ready for sponsorship and wishes to inquire (see below).
How it Works
Primer on Private Sponsorship from rstp
Local Constituent Groups are responsible for the first year’s living expenses – the “settlement year” – for the refugee family. Per family size, costs are approximately (depending on circumstances):
Settlement Year Costs (approximate)
$13,500 – for one refugee;
$22,400 – for a couple or two people who will cohabit;
$24,300 – for a family of three;
$28,200 – for a family of four people,
+ approximately $2,000 more for every additional dependent family member.
This amount does not have to be raised all in cash; it can include in-kind donations, including furniture, accommodations provided, etc.
If your group:
(a) has raised the funds required for sponsorship of the intended refugees;
(b) has at least 5 adult Canadians or permanent residents living in the community where the refugees will be living, each willing and able to help with settlement tasks for the year – such as finding accommodation, school and language instruction enrolment, accessing medical care, orientation to shopping, services, and the community, etc (note: despite the requirement for 5 people, this is not a Group of 5 sponsorship – it is an SAH sponsorship);
(c) can get the information needed to fill out the IRCC Application for an Outside Canada SAH Refugee Sponsorship as part of a Constituent Group; and
(d) has a settlement plan (download a sample PDF settlement plan here and is willing to enter into an agreement with UUCH covering the settlement year.
…then please contact us at 902-429-5500 or uurefugees-at-gmail.com. Note that this email is intended for local in-Canada groups only.
For more useful information, visit the Canadian Unitarian Council’s page on refugee sponsorship.