Supporting refugees

McDougall's first sponsored Syrian refugee family on a trip to a cattle farm in southern Alberta. (Photo: Michael Plumb/Syrian Refugee Committee). 

McDougall's first sponsored Syrian refugee family on a trip to a cattle farm in southern Alberta. (Photo: Michael Plumb/Syrian Refugee Committee). 

McDougall’s Syrian Refugee Committee partnered with volunteers from Deer Park, St. Andrew’s and Scarborough United Churches. They would share the task of fundraising the $35,000 needed to sponsor a family. On Feb. 6, 2016, a family of six arrived in Canada. It was the start of an experience so enlightening for the committee, some members can't nail down the most rewarding part of it.

“Everything. They’re a very nice family, the kids are great, it’s fun! You learn stuff, you get to know other people in your team and it shakes up your schedule. They’re not use to the Canadian system of planning things, she laughs, “but you get back way more than you give,” said Chair Marjorie MacRae. 

The group was thrown into the challenges of sponsoring a refugee family, juggling ESL classes with public transit lessons, along with healthcare appointments and recreation for the four children who were all under the age of 10. They were resourceful, dedicated volunteers, but they often wondered if other sponsorship groups faced the same challenges, and how they worked through it.  MacRae believes the committee’s experience is just a “multicultural thing to do.”

“It’s something that I’m very proud of. Canada’s culture grows and develops at the intersection of the sponsorship groups and refugee family. The mother, Nasreen, will not stop staying ‘thank you’ repeatedly. It will only be a matter of time before ‘sorry’ is a regular part of her conversations,” said MacRae.

McDougall United Church members have generously donated funds and their volunteer time to help the committee, which helped make the family’s transition to Canada as smooth as possible. In June 2017, the committee’s sponsorship ended, but the group decided it will continue to support the family. Its members have become friends with the volunteers who will be in touch with the family for years to come.

Members will gather again in the fall to decide how they can further help more people seeking refuge in Calgary. For more information on McDougall’s Syrian Refugee Committee or if you want to volunteer with the next sponsorship family, contact Chair Marjorie MacRae at mcmglengarry@gmail.com.