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.
Co-chair, The Manning-Ulster Refugee Project