Monthly Archives: December 2015

We’re more than half-way there!

I was thrilled when I got the email from SMM treasurer Anne Todd yesterday: “Allan, attached, an update to today on gifts to date for the refugee sponsorship.”, which was followed by a small spreadsheet showing that donations since my last update to you had swelled from just over $9,000 to $27,880!  This means we are more than half-way to our fundraising goal of $50,000!

Thank-you to all of you who have contributed so generously to our campaign so far.  We still have a ways to go yet, but with this amount raised, we are ready to ask AURA to start the wheels turing to connect us with a family.  Please continue to tell friends and colleagues about our campaign: post something to Facebook (along with the URL, Twitter, email your friends and family; in short, please do whatever you can to spread the word about what we’re doing.

In January, our team will be attending a training class with AURA to learn the ins and outs of what it means to be a sponsorship team, and we will be busy making plans for additional fundraising events, and our family’s arrival this spring (we hope).

Again, thanks for your continued support.



T’was the weekend before Christmas …

… and all through the house, things were pretty quiet.  My significant other had to work on Sunday. At first, I thought I’d get a head start on Christmas food preparations, and then, I thought, chuck it: it’s the last Sunday in Advent, which is a season of quiet anticipation; why shouldn’t I spend the day quietly, and not feel the need to “do something”, as is my habit?

So I went to church, and was very happy that one of my favourite hymns was on “the program”: Veni Veni Emmanuel.  (The words of the hymn are a quiet pleading for the long-promised Saviour to finally come and free his people. There’s something very contemplative and moving about the melody and words; for me, it’s a tonic for the hype and consumerism of the season.)  Then a lovely walk with my dog, and then writing some Christmas cards.  I eventually did break down and make a batch of shortbread, but I resisted the temptation to get a start on everything else on my cooking and baking list.

Things are going well with the fundraising so far.  I don’t have an exact number that I can report, as I rely on the treasurer at St. Mary Magdalene to give me a cumulative total that includes donations made by parishioners on the collection plate at the church.  But I know we’re at least $3000 richer than we were when I woke up this morning; my guess (and I will confirm when the collection plate count has been done) is that we’re around the $14,000 mark.  Which is terrific, given that we’re not even 2 weeks into our campaign!

This past week, several members of our group leafleted the houses on Manning Avenue and Ulster Street; we printed 1000 of them, and have very few left.

In addition, we were very lucky to have a donation of a number of copies of the Pax Christi Chorale’s latest CD, Winter Nights to sell to raise money: composer and choir director Stephanie Martin kindly donated over 40 of them, and we’ve sold all but 2. It’s a gorgeous CD, and if you can’t get a copy from us, I highly recommend you order one from the Pax Christi web site.

We are busy making plans for other fundraisers, from a concert series featuring world-class musicians, to a silent auction that – fingers crossed – could include a week in Strasbourg!

Thanks to everyone who has contributed thus far.  We’re heartened by response.

Let’s raise some money!

pls giveWe are well under way!  The core sponsorship team has already had two meetings, and made lots of progress. We have registered with AURA, the sponsorship agreement holder, and we are crossing many things off our our list that we need to get done early on in this project.  Our focus has been getting the infrastructure for fundraising and communications in place.  And I’m pleased to say that we are now ready to take your money!

We are aiming to raise $50,000 to support the resettlement of one large, or possibly two smaller families. The more money we raise, the more people we can help.

Click “How to Donate”, above, to learn about the different ways you can support our project.  All donations to the Manning-Ulster Refugee Project are tax deductible.


We can’t help everybody … But we can all help somebody.

For me, at least, it was “the picture” that moved me to action.  Over the past 3 years, I had been through the resettlement of two refugee families, and was feeling a little bit of “sponsorship fatigue”, and thought I might take a year off from this kind of work.  But when I came downstairs one morning, opened the newspaper, and saw that picture of little Alan Kurdie on that beach in Turkey, I knew I had to do something.

It seems that picture, along with the increased reports of the horrors faced by refugees around the world moved a lot of other people as well. I was at the  birthday celebration of a friend out in the country, and another long-time friend approached me, saying that he wanted to do something too.  The conversation quickly expanded to other people at the party, and afterwards, to many more still through email and Facebook. People were keen to help. Our actions weren’t going to solve the refugee crisis, but helping even one family was important to us; if thousands more groups like us did the same thing, well, that would have impact.

At the same time, parishioners at my church began similar conversations. The sponsorships I had been involved with before were done through St. Mary Magdalene (SMM) in Toronto, so the parish had some experience with the process.  It occurred to me that it might be beneficial for the group of friends I was involved with to work with the church: SMM already had an arrangement with AURA, a sponsorship agreement holder that could facilitate the resettlement of a family to Canada.  And experience has taught me that having the backing of a larger organization during a sponsorship is beneficial, especially when unforeseen, urgent costs are incurred.

A few conversations later, both groups agreed to come together, and an official sponsorship team was formed, with members from SMM, as well as members from the community at large. We’ve called ourselves the Manning-Ulster Refugee Project: the name comes from the neighbourhood where we regularly meet.


The intersection of Manning Avenue, and Ulster Streets, in Toronto.  St. Mary Magdalene’s is right at the corner, and Healey Willan Park, named after the highly-regarded Canadian composer of liturgical and other music is just to the west.  Willan was the musical director at SMM for many years.

It’s going to be a great experience. I know that at times, it will be difficult, but having the diverse range of perspectives and backgrounds, I’m confident we will be able to make a huge difference to at least one family in need.


Allan Risk
Co-chair, The Manning-Ulster Refugee Project