By Connie Cook
The Neighbours Refugee Sponsorship Group is run by volunteers to help those in need find a safe place to live and work in Creston.
In 2019, the group was formed in response to a family who reached out to the community for help. At the time, the Creston Refugee Committee was in the process of sponsoring the Maplamchang family, so Neighbours was formed as a second sponsorship group.
Some of the responsibilities of the group include submitting applications to the government, financing the family’s first year in Creston, locating housing and furnishings, supporting the family as they adapt to a new culture, and tutoring the family in English.
Currently, the target for financial support, set by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), is $65,000.
“When civil war broke out in Syria, many Kurdish people fled the country to take refuge in Kurdistan Region, Iraq. Among them were the Ismail family,” said Diane Ryckman, chair of Neighbours Refugee Sponsorship Group.
In 2018, the Creston Refugee Committee brought Kader, Nesrin, and their four children to the community, while Nesrin’s mother, sister, brother, his wife and their three boys remain in a refugee camp in Iraq.
Neighbours Refugee Sponsorship Group is in the process of sponsoring all remaining seven family members to come to Creston.
“The refugee camp where the Ismail family live is in a very hot, dry, barren part of Iraq,” said Ryckman.
“There is no air conditioning. Their only shade is their two-room, cylinder block home. Water availability can be hit and miss. Education is limited. Electrical fires and resulting deaths among children are not uncommon. And the stench of garbage is everywhere.”
In the process of seeing the family arrive in Canada, the application now sits in Lebanon awaiting approval.
Applications were submitted to a Sponsorship Agreement Holder in June of 2020. In October of 2021, Neighbours Refugee Sponsorship Group was accepted as a constituency group.
“It could be February 2024 before we hear,” said Ryckman.
“Until then, we’ll continue to raise funds and awareness.”
Past fundraisers have included bake sales, a garage sale, concerts, and bouquet sales. On Saturday, Sept. 17, Neighbours Refugee Sponsorship Group will host its next fundraiser – Family Fun Extravaganza – from 2 to 6 p.m. at Lloyd’s Backyard, 804A 11 Ave. South. The entire event is by donation and will include refreshments, lawn games, face painting, and best of all, music!
Elevation Gain and Goat River Men’s Choir are donating their time and talents to entertain the crowd.
For those interested, Neighbours Refugee Sponsorship Group has created a multi-media presentation to share with various groups and organizations in the valley. Anyone who would like to see it is asked to contact email@example.com.