City of Stratford to help sponsor 5 Syrian refugee families

The City of Stratford says it plans to raise enough money to bring five Syrian refugee families to the city and support them for a year and half.

City has set a fundraising goal of $225,000

A child holds a self-made placard reading "SOS help me" outside the railways station in Budapest, Hungary September 2, 2015. (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)

A volunteer committee in Stratford says it plans to raise enough money to bring five Syrian refugee families to the city and support them for a year and a half. 

With input from the Mennonite Central Committee and local churches and organizations, the steering committee set a fundraising goal of $225,000, which works out to $45,000 per refugee family.

"That would allow us a year and a half to get them settled and on their feet," said Kathy Vassilakos, a city councillor and chair of the committee. She said some refugee families will be able to "hit the ground running," while others may need some extra help. 

Vassilakos says it will be community organizations, such as local churches, which will do the actual sponsoring.

"We do have a couple of churches that have...experience in settling refugee families and they've already done this before," she said. "They've come forward and said, 'We will be the group that takes care of all the on-the-ground activities.'"

'It's going to be a real learning curve'

The refugee families will be brought over one at a time, as the funds are raised. 

"You stagger their arrival so that you make sure each family gets settled and you've done everything you need to do and you can pool your resources," Vassilakos said. "Also, it's going to be a real learning curve for us. Once the first family comes, there are lessons that we will have learned that we can apply to the next one." 

For its part, the City of Stratford will help the committee coordinate fundraising efforts around the community and will help develop a protocol that will be used in the future when local organizations express interest in sponsoring refugees.

The city will also host a public information session on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at 7:00 p.m. in the City Hall auditorium for anyone who is interested in learning more about sponsoring refugee families from Syria.