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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jagrup’s blog – The story of refugees

Jagrup’s blog – The story of refugees

Imagine a single mother running to escape civil war with a baby in her arms and two other children ages three and four running with her. They are in fear and do not know where they are going. They find their way to Canada – a country where they hope to have a future.
Today I walked to Options Community Services Society in Surrey where I met this woman – a brave Somali woman and a single mother who escaped from civil war to Kenya, then to Nairobi and finally reached Canada. I met other refugees, some sponsored by the Government of Canada and some privately sponsored.
We have a growing population of refugees in British Columbia. Their stories and challenges are unimaginable.
Those refugees who are sponsored by government come from refugee camps with help from the United Nations. A key problem for them is that their children did not get access to proper schools at the refugee camps. Many children don’t know English and have a difficult time fitting into our school system. This is especially true for the older children. Parents feel helpless and worry that their children are more vulnerable to getting involved with criminal activity.
There are many privately sponsored refugees in Surrey coming from war-torn countries. The sponsoring agent is responsible for providing living expenses and support for one year. In many cases this is not happening and there is no clear accountability measures established for the sponsoring agent. These refugees cannot apply for welfare for one year.
I met a young refugee who is 25 years old. He was sponsored by someone known to his brother. After arriving here in Canada, he never met his sponsor. He has applied for jobs but, couldn’t find one and he has no income.
Our compassion to open the doors to these refugees fleeing from conflict is right, but leaving them in desperate situations once arrive here is wrong. We need to do a better job.
Hearing their stories made me realize that we have work to do to ensure policies that are supposed to give relief to refugee families really meet their needs and give them a future instead of leaving them in pain.
I would like to give my sincere thanks to the Executive Director of Options, Christine Mohr for connecting me with these refugee families. Also, special thanks to Iris Solorzano, and Connie Hong for organizing my day and to Hibo for excellent interpretation services.
On a more personal front, I ended today with $55.45 to last me for the rest of the month. I also experienced something that happens a lot to people living on welfare and on low incomes, when the heat in my room stopped working. I did what some people do – borrowed a heater from a friend for a few days – and talked to my landlord who is working on getting it fixed. It gets very cold in January and going without heat is hard. Not all landlords respond in a timely way and I can tell you from personal experience, it can be very cold inside without heat.

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