A CG (Constituent Group) must complete and submit a settlement plan to City of Refuge for approval. The settlement plan details what the sponsoring group will do to orient and support the newcomer upon arrival. It provides a framework for working through the myriad details of who will do what, when, and how, with what resources and where those resources will come from. It is understood that this initial Settlement Plan may require revision during the settlement period. City of Refuge may require new CGs to establish a trust fund prior to submitting a sponsorship.
In many churches, the Deacons accept the responsibility of providing the necessary funds. In other cases, the congregation is asked for pledges or organize community fundraising events. In addition to a settlement plan, a Memorandum of Understanding must be completed by a CG initiating a sponsorship for a refugee IF his/her related family member in Canada is acting as Co-Sponsor. The MoU will outline the responsibilities of each party to the agreement.
The Settlement Plan outlines:
- financial support for food, clothing, transportation,
- reserve funds available to cover expenses until the newcomer is employed
- accommodations and furnishings
- orientation to life in Canada
- assistance with access to medical care, resources such as interpreters, and ESL classes
- enroll children in school and guidance in dealings with the school system
- assistance finding employment
- emotional support and friendship
- help the newcomers to become independent
Sponsors make the commitment to assist newcomers in becoming independent for many reasons. However, your hand of friendship and support may not always be received or accepted as you might have expected. Please be aware that it may be difficult to build friendships with newcomers until your relationship becomes more balanced.
The first years can be very difficult for newcomers. They have lost everything - their country, their language, their status in the community, their culture, their friends and family, their worldly possessions, and maybe their faith in themselves and in humanity. They are experiencing genuine grief. Only their hope and trust in God to provide a better future sustains them. Some come with unrealistic expectations and after the initial euphoria, are angry and depressed when they realize how hard their new life in Canada will be.
Newcomers expect their education, work experience, age, language skills, etc., will allow them to find employment, and are disappointed to discover these credentials do not easily transfer to the Canadian labour market. This possibility has been explained at the Embassy, but many do not understand or accept what they hear and this can create problems after arrival.
Refugees are desperate to come, and at the same time depressed at leaving everything familiar behind. Their set of life skills often does not adequately prepare them for life in Canada where they are expected to always be grateful. Cultures are different and from our cultural viewpoint, some newcomers can be pretty demanding; some are aggressive or arrogant but many are generous, humble and hospitable. The challenge is in helping someone who may not be grateful, in befriending someone who may not want your friendship, in listening to someone you may not understand. Be prepared not to like all of their attitudes.
Hopefully, these comments will serve as a reminder that refugees are people who have experienced suffering, beyond what most Canadians can imagine. Not all will be fine upstanding citizens and as a result sponsorship is not always easy. Expect the best but be prepared for the worst.