By Kyle Gascho
Between November 2015 and February 2016, the Government of Canada resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees through government supported and private sponsorships.
My first experience working with refugee resettlement was through my parish of St. James, Stratford and the Stratford Anglican Lutheran Team (SALT) for Refugees. While the experience was quite limited, it was very rewarding to be part of making a difference in the lives of a family who needed help.
Fast forward to the summer of 2019, I was hired on as an employee at Huron Church House as part of the Canada Summer Jobs program. After the summer employment term had ended, I was approached about a possible job with the Diocesan Refugee Committee. Having no clue what I was signing up for, I interviewed with Jane Townshend, the chair of the committee and another committee member about the position. After the interview, they informed me that the position was mine if I wanted it!
The position started out solely as administrative. The largest part of the position was to process and submit applications for refugee sponsorship to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The diocesan refugee committee has the hardest working and most dedicated group of people that I have encountered. Working tirelessly with families here in Canada to help resettle their loved ones from across seas, this committee helps make a difference in the lives of so many people every year.
With so many government regulations, policies and procedures that need to be adhered to in every case, and with a stack of documents and forms about ten feet high that needs to be completed by the refugees, their loved ones here in Canada (co-sponsors), churches that may be involved in the sponsorship (constituent group), and the diocese (sponsorship agreement holder), our committee members help to get all of this done so that they can send me the full application to be thoroughly checked over and then submitted to the government.
The hours and hours of work don’t stop there. Each committee member takes on their own cases every year and works with the family constantly from the initial meeting before even getting started on the paperwork, to the arrival of the refugee and their family, all the way through to typically 12 months after the arrival. Day and night, our committee members support the families that are resettled here in Canada, and also support the people that are sponsoring them. Sometimes this process from start to finish can be a few years.
Over the years, many parishes and deaneries have signed on to sponsor and support the resettlement of refugees through the diocese. With the help of parishes, deaneries and groups around the diocese, refugees and their families have been supported so well and impact their lives in such a meaningful way. When these groups sign on for a sponsorship, we know that any refugee family is going to receive the best support imaginable. The support from around the diocese is greatly appreciated by not only the refugee committee, but also the families whose lives have been turned upside down. You make them feel supported, cared for, valued and respected in the most challenging of times! Thank you!
What started out as just a job that could help me to get through my post-secondary education, has become a meaningful, passionate and extremely rewarding ministry for me. It is no longer a job to me. Since I started working with the diocesan refugee committee in October 2019, I have now taken on two cases of my own, one here in London and another in my hometown of Stratford.
I am so grateful and blessed to have been given this opportunity and it is truly an honour to work with such an amazing group of people on the refugee committee. We are always looking for people to join the diocesan refugee committee. Though it can be quite the commitment, I can promise you that it will be very rewarding.
If you have any questions about the committee, refugee resettlement, or have a parish or deanery that would be interested in sponsoring refugees, please don’t hesitate to contact Jane Townshend at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kyle Gascho at email@example.com.
Kyle Gascho is the staff support for the Huron Refugee Committee and the Verger at St. James in Stratford.