SoKind Blog


Real Celebration: Toronto Neighbors Rally Together to Sponsor A Syrian Refugee Family

Posted by Edna Rienzi • December 9, 2015

In the Real Celebrations series, SoKind asks registry users to share a bit about their celebrations. In this blog, we feature a different sort of “celebration” – a celebration of the amazing impact that a group of strangers can have when they join together. Read on for a collection of inspirational ideas as well as lessons learned!

Want to share your Real Celebration? Contact us at hello@sokindregistry.org.

The Participants:

On September 1, 2015, we were mostly strangers, living in the same neighbourhood in Toronto, Canada, probably passing one another on the sidewalks, stores, and school yards. On September 2, we were jarred – as so many in the global community were – by the tragic deaths of a small boy named Alan Kurdi, his mother Rehana, and his brother Galip, Syrian refugees who drowned trying to reach Greece in an inflatable boat with thirteen other refugees. Media reports quickly uncovered that the Kurdi family had been trying to seek refugee sponsorship in Canada. 

We responded as strangers to a simple message on a neighbourhood newsletter: who wants to help? What can we do? This is how a group of strangers came together to sponsor a Syrian refugee family to settle in Canada.

Some of us have stories of refugee experiences in our families, some of us are parents, and all of us are motivatedby a deeply human value: refugees welcome. No family should have to risk their lives to flee a dangerous, unstable, inhuman environment.

The Event: 

Bloorcourt Sponsors are raising money and household supplies to sponsor and prepare for the arrival of our refugee family in Toronto. The Government of Canada sets out the requirements for private sponsorship of refugees: sponsors must provide for the family’s home, furnishings, clothing, and income for a full year. In real terms, this means providing $7,000 to set up a home, and $20,000 in income for the year for a family of four. Meanwhile, Toronto is Canada’s largest city, with a high cost of living. This is why Bloorcourt Sponsors have set an audacious goal of raising $50,000 to sponsor and support a Syrian refugee family.

Community response has been incredible. We have organized community events, like a family farm day, where a local farmer toured us around his large dairy farm and shared with us his family’s escape from Europe just before the start of World War II. We are organizing fundraising lunches, and craft workshops. A little girl in our community asked her friends to bring donations for our refugee family instead of presents to her fifth birthday party. We are using online platforms to raise cash. Every single contribution helps. And this is where SoKind comes in.

How has SoKind helped:

SoKind offers our group the smartest solution to setting up a home for our refugee family, allowing us to seek gifts of gently used household items, donations of money towards specific items, and donations of volunteer time from members of our community – and even from caring strangers.

Every household item we are able to obtain as an in-kind donation reduces our $7,000 start-up costs, and items like grocery cards and transit passes offset the funds needed to provide income support to the family for the year. Supporters who are nearby can choose freely between in-kind gifts and gifts with dollar values, and supporters who may not be located in Toronto can still select an item for the family among the dollar value gifts. The registry format helps us to avoid duplicate items, ask for new items where it is a better fit (like pillows and mattresses), and thank the people who are so generously supporting the refugee family. As we learn more about the family, we will be able to post specific items like school supplies and clothing with the proper sizes to meet this family’s needs. 

SoKind offers us an online platform to do all this in an efficient, environmentally conscious, community-oriented way – it’s values-based giving. We think of it as the web-era equivalent of a Mennonite barn-raising, where people can come together to give their talents and gifts to someone who can’t do it alone. In this way, Bloorcourt Sponsors and our supporters are supporting a family, and building our community.

Challenges:

We are learning a lot about refugee sponsorship from organizations like Lifeline Syria and other groups who have sponsored families before or are further ahead in the process. The recent election in Canada has sped up the pace at which refugee applications are processed, and we were recently matched with a refugee family.  We are preparing for the family to arrive in Canada in 2016, hopefully early in the new year. Bloorcourt Sponsors are turning up our already significant efforts to get the necessary in-kind items in hand so that we are ready and able to help the Syrian refugee family leave their unsafe and unstable circumstances to make a home in our community, as soon as possible.

Advice:

SoKind is such a flexible tool – use it for as much as you can to support your event or initiative. There isn’t a thing we can think of that couldn’t be posted on a SoKind registry. We think of SoKind as an on-ramp for members of the community to learn about and support our refugee sponsorship initiative. Maybe someone has some spare kitchen gadgets they can give – we hope that this simple act of giving can inspire that person to do more for a refugee family, or even get involved with Bloorcourt Sponsors. This will all help to create a welcoming, supportive community for refugee families like ours to make their home.

Feel inspired to help? Please check out Bloorcourt Sponsors’ SoKind registry.