Monday, 1 February 2016

Refugee Sponsorship with Breslau Mennonite Church

Breslau has experienced rapid growth in the last 5-10 years and we are all learning about each other as we work to build our local community.  There are many in our community that are new and there are many who have been here for a very long time.  Breslau means something different for everyone, and we all have different expectations for our future.  Breslau Mennonite Church has been a part of Breslau for more than 100 years.  You have probably driven by and maybe you have even attended a service, dinner, wedding or funeral there.  Many things have changed in our community and in our world in that time.  I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about a response to recent global events bering undertaken by Breslau Mennonite Church and Bloomingdale Mennonite Church.  These two congregations have agreed to partner together on a private refugee sponsorship project for a refugee family of 4/5. The Canadian Government defines refugees as people who are outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on: race; religion; political opinion; nationality; or membership in a particular social group, such as women or people of a particular sexual orientation.

You have been hearing about 25 000 refugees in the news lately and how the Canadian Government has pledged to settle this number in Canada by the end of February. The first thing that we need to differentiate is government sponsorship vs private sponsorship.

For government sponsored refugees the government at all levels and their various agencies are 100% responsible for the well-being of each family.  These are the refugees that usually end up housed in military bases or hotels until other accommodations are available.

For private sponsored refugees a sponsoring agency or group is responsible for the daily needs of the refugees.  The sponsoring group needs to raise a minimum of $30 000 and then commit to ensuring the matched refugee family's daily needs are met for their first year in Canada.  The idea behind a private sponsorship is a large support network of individuals (not necessarily government agencies) will do the work to get the refugees settled. This includes but not limited to: housing, education, the search for jobs, arranging health care, ensuring school age children have adequate supplies, food, assisting in social connections with the local communitym and seeking social supports with others sharing similar stories.  This doesn't mean that government resources cannot be used but it is up to the private group to apply for and make use of these resources.

This private sponsorship will be a part of Mennonite Central Commitee's (MCC) refugee program.  As such, it will have the strong suppot from MCC, giving this project a firm foundation.

Diversity isn't just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention. It generates creativity that helps change the world. We know this in Canada.

-- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Davos
The Waterloo Region is well prepared to welcome refugees and a website has been developed (WR Welcomes Refugees) listing a large number of resources available. With this post, I am inviting anyone in the local Breslau community who is interesting in being a part of this initiative to please get in contact with me at or by contacting Breslau Mennonite Church at 519-648-2501 or

Sometimes we hear about stories in the news and we want to do something to help, this is your opportunity to help.  Breslau Mennonite Church just voted to approve this project this week.  This means that the project is in its infancy but we are preparing for a 1-4 month timeline to be matched with a refugee family and have that family arrive in the region.  Once we know more about the family and what their needs are we will again be making appeals to the community.

The poem to the left was written and performed by Shane Koyczan during the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremonies, it tells of a vision of Canada that is inspiring. We are a fortunate people in a fortunate country. We must do what we can to help those who have struggled in difficult circumstances.

Thank you for considering this opportunity.