Submitted by Sabine Lehr, Private Sponsorship of Refugees Manager
In the face of the escalating global refugee crisis, have you ever wondered how you can make a tangible contribution to help a refugee identified as being high-need by the UN Refugee Agency? If you want to enable Canada to resettle more refugees under the country’s international commitments to refugee protection, you may want to consider the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) Program.
The BVOR Program is designed to resettle high-need refugees identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and submitted to Canadian visa offices abroad. It is referred to as a “blended” program because it is a cost-sharing arrangement whereby Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) provides up to six months of income support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), and private sponsors will provide another six months of financial support, start-up cost and up to one year of social and emotional support.
Refugees identified for the BVOR program have already been assessed and have met the Canadian Government resettlement criteria, making them travel-ready – they just need to be matched with sponsors. And this sponsor could be YOU!
Recognizing that fundraising timelines for these cases are short, ICA is able to offer one-time financial support for two BVOR cases through some special program funding we have received. Depending on the number of people sponsored in each case, sponsors will have to do little or no additional fundraising and can concentrate fully on the one-year settlement support.
You can find more information about the Blended Visa Office-Referred Program here.
If you want to discuss becoming a BVOR sponsor, please contact Sabine Lehr, ICA’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone: (250) 388-4728 ext. 146.
What do previous BVOR sponsors have to say?
Hear from Margie Parikh who has been involved in two successful BVOR sponsorships:
Sabine: Margie, you have been involved in sponsoring two sets of refugees under the Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) initiative. What prompted you to get involved in these sponsorships?
Margie: Like others, I despaired at the plight of many in Syria and in other war-torn countries. My friends and I knew we could use our privilege and resources to support the government’s efforts to bring people to Canada, where the refugees and their families could be safe, get a new start for themselves and their families and contribute to the richness of Canada.
Sabine: What were the most rewarding aspects of these sponsorships for you? What were the most difficult ones?
Margie: For sure the success and happiness of the newcomers has been far more rewarding than expected, and in particular the success of their children, who are eager and happy and blending right in. But I have also been moved to see the efforts, some herculean, by my fellow group members and by so many people in Victoria who have come on board to help our refugees.
As for challenges, we weren’t quite prepared for how much support is required by someone who is new to Canada and who doesn’t speak English – we take so much for granted. Navigating the systems, the city, the settling in a new country is a big job. I think I also didn’t appreciate how emotional it would be, particularly for the single man we’ve sponsored. He is young, left his family in terrible conditions, and is alone in a very different culture. I somehow expected safety, opportunity, and gratitude for Canada to erase all that, but of course the new life, though greatly appreciated, comes with sadness too.
Sabine: The BVOR program refers cases that the Canadian Government has accepted from the UN Refugee Agency for private sponsorship to civil society. In what ways was that important to you? What do you see as special features of this program?
Margie: It gave us the confidence to move forward whole-heartedly, focusing on settlement infrastructure and knowing there was government support – safeguards, advice, infrastructure, and some funding. It also gave us a network of like-minded Canadians.
Sabine: The global refugee crisis is escalating. What contribution do you think private citizens can make to addressing the crisis through the BVOR program?
Margie: While cliché, yes our small efforts make a difference. It seems nothing on the grand scale, but you feel it when you interact with the newcomers you have sponsored. You feel it when they talk about their family. You feel it when you sit beside them as they look at news of their homeland. And you feel it when you see how hard they are working to learn our language and learn about this very different culture. It is good for us and good for them – and having the BVOR framework just makes it easier for us to harness our emotions and passions and step into action.
Sabine: What would you say to someone considering a BVOR sponsorship?
Margie: Sponsoring in itself is a big job, you need a good group with different skill sets and lots of support and flexibility. BVOR is probably the best way to do it, as it takes away some of the concerns about who you are sponsoring and is connected to structures to help you navigate systems in Canada. It’s a good partnership.
Sabine: You have certainly made a big contribution to changing the lives of the persons you have sponsored. What about yourself? How have these sponsorships changed you as a person?
Margie: Absolutely – though I still despair, I feel I am making an impact, small as it may be. It brought me joy – not just in knowing we’ve helped someone but in working with my friends and their families to make this happen – I have such great respect and admiration for my group members. Everyone is busy – we have kids and jobs and other volunteer commitments – but somehow we did it. And it was so rewarding and important that we are doing it again.
Sabine: Thank you, Margie, for sharing your experiences with our readers.
One of the most beautiful and profound things I have heard someone say recently was that “Yes, it is only a drop in the ocean. But the ocean is made up of drops, isn’t it?” If you want to make a difference through a BVOR sponsorship, please come talk to us – contact Sabine at: email@example.com