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New funding to help refugees arriving in Kamloops

Another Syrian refugee family will resettle in Kamloops thanks to the Refugees and Friends Together (RAFT) program.
Syrian refugees
Brothers Rojeh Youssef Labbad and Rodan Youssef Labbad are greeted at Kamloops Airport in January 2016.

Another Syrian refugee family will resettle in Kamloops thanks to the Refugees and Friends Together (RAFT) program.

RAFT, which sponsors refugees through the Kamloops United Church, expects the family of four to arrive this fall and is looking for more volunteers to help support the quartet — something the group finds harder to secure than funding.

Members of the group nonetheless were at a public meeting at Kamloops Immigrant Services on Wednesday to hear about new funding from the University of Ottawa’s The Refugee Hub, which is encouraging local residents and workplace-based groups to access its fund to sponsor UNHCR-referred refugees.

Kamloops is one of several B.C. communities being visited this week to promote the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) fund.

The fund helps cover the first year of the refugees’ living expenses groups like RAFT are responsible for providing — half coming from government and the other half available through the university’s fund, said Refugee Hub director of innovation and development,Tara Templin.

This year groups are being offered an extra $5,000 per case, up to $50,000, to cover administrative costs in addition to the funding available for the sponsorship costs, Templin said.

The additional money can help RAFT stretch its funds further, said RAFT committee volunteer Martha Asbaugh.

“We can do more and help more families in the long run with the Refugee Hub’s assistance,” she said.

Templin said the Refugee Hub wants to be able to resettle the 1,650 refugees who are waiting to come to Canada this year.

The Refugee Hub dolled out $3.5 million to 152 groups to cover refugee resettling expenses in 2018.

“What’s interesting about this is normally the groups fundraise, but this [fund] enables people who are working and not retired to be able to sponsor because we don’t have to spend the hours and hours it takes to fundraise,” Templin said.

Refugees are resettled by community groups like RAFT, working with a sponsorship agreement holder, (SAH) such as Kamloops United Church.

The groups of volunteers do the on-ground work of helping a family with tasks, such as finding housing, medical and education services, while the SAH is an organization that oversees and supports those volunteers.

Any Canadian group of volunteers of five or more working with a SAH can submit an application to BVOR program to sponsor a refugee or refugee family from now until the end of August.

“The BVOR program is great because it provides us with a reasonably fast turnaround,” said Asbaugh.

“They are people in need who’ve been verified and ready to travel — that’s huge.”

RAFT utilized the BVOR program to support its current refugee family, which resettled in Kamloops from Africa, but the Syrian refugee family coming this fall is being brought in via a different program.

Asbaugh said RAFT has sponsored eight Syrian families since civil war began in that country in March 2011.