Refugee Sponsorship

Helping Refugees

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 103 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.

Iraqi Refugee Children, Photo UK Dept. for International Development 2014

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 imperiled political dissidents and Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe in World War II. And Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova whose humanitarian and refugee work took her to post-war Europe, to Africa and Asia – to conflict zones where the need was greatest. One of Canada’s most recognized humanitarians and founder of USC Canada now Seed Change. 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.

A History of Refugee Sponsorship at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax (UUCH)

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, and Afghans in the 2000s, Syrians in the 2010s and now Afghans again in the 2020s.

An Iraqi family on the Halifax waterfront

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 have been forced to flee their homes. Now we are also dealing with the Afghan crisis and the war in Ukraine. At the same time, the need in other parts of the world has not abated.

Members of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax waiting for first Syrian Family in 2016

Work With us to Make a Difference

In 2018 the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax became a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), an organization authorized by the federal government to select and settle refugees to Canada, as part of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. Each year we are designated a certain number of spaces, which authorizes us to select refugees, manage the submission of applications and oversee the settlement process for the newcomers’ first year. Inspired by our UU principles, we sponsor people across all ethnicities, all religious backgrounds and all sexual orientations. As a small volunteer-run SAH we work primarily with local groups or families in Nova Scotia, Canada who do all the fundraising and settlement work for the refugees, supported by us as their Sponsorship Agreement Holder. 

We welcome new volunteers for a variety of roles in this crucial and satisfying work.

Part of newly arrived Syrian Kurdish family with SAH & CG sponsors – 2023

For Local Groups Interested in Sponsoring

We always have a long waiting list, but please contact us if your group is ready for sponsorship and wishes to inquire.

If you are a refugee reading this:

We get emails from refugees every day, but we do not respond to them.

As a Sponsorship Agreement Holder, we only work with sponsors in Nova Scotia who can provide funds and settlement support as outlined above. We do not have the funds nor the capacity to sponsor you ourselves. You need to have friends or family in Canada and they need to apply on your behalf to SAHs in their province of residence.