Nova Scotia

Private refugee sponsorship groups turn to roundtables to beat burnout

Monthly discussions that started about a year ago in Halifax have allowed groups to mentor each other and have a safe space to discuss the challenges they're facing.

Monthly discussions that started about a year ago in Halifax have allowed groups to mentor each other

A young Syrian refugee looks up as her father holds her and a Canadian flag as they arrive at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont., Dec. 18, 2015. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

On the third Sunday of each month, dozens of people representing different private sponsorship groups in Nova Scotia meet in Halifax to talk about what they're doing to help refugees settle.

The Private Sponsors of Nova Scotia Roundtables started about a year ago and the chair of the group said it's been helpful in beating burnout.

"We tend to think that the best way to help volunteers stick with it in the long run is to have someone you can go to for support," said Liz MacBeth of the Open Harbour Refugee Association, which is based in Halifax.

Besides being mentors for each other, the members are also buoyed by the successes others groups are having.

New groups being fresh experiences

There are about 45 private sponsorship groups in the province and 25 are based in the Halifax area.

"Many of the groups that have been doing it for so long have found that the fresh eyes of a group that's just starting has taught them some new things that they can do better," said MacBeth.

"Some of the people who have never done it before have found … they can actually feel more comfortable and hopefully experience less burnout."

Next to burnout, some other challenges include not being able to find enough donations, not being able to find family doctors for refugees and finding a job a new Nova Scotian might want.

Life after sponsorship

The biggest challenge, MacBeth said, has been the closure of English-language training schools in Bedford and Dartmouth. She said the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia has been helpful in trying to bridge that gap.

Private sponsorship groups aim to have refugees independent a year after they come to Canada, but MacBeth said sometimes they can be ready in under a year.

On the other hand, MacBeth said something unexpected like a pregnancy at the end of the first year in Canada may mean a bit more time has to be spent with the sponsorship group.


Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.