Hope Church rises to challenge
As the number of displaced persons, people who have been forced through war, aggression or persecution to leave their homes, around the world continues to grow to epic proportions, some Canadian individuals and organizations have found a way to
help: private refugee sponsorships.
Lennoxville’s Hope Community Church is one such organization. Its members are sponsoring a young Iraqi family of four who they hope will finally be able to come to Canada by next winter. “We received a challenge to sponsor a family of refugees so, as a church, we decided to take up the challenge. After doing a lot of paperwork, we have received approval from the government now to do so,” commented Paul McLean, an elder with the Hope Community Church.
But last December, Mr. McLean and his family, along with a few other members of the church, decided to take the experience a step further. “My family and I usually go somewhere to share Christmas with others so a friend suggested we go to meet the Barbars, the family the church is sponsoring,” he continued. "Ten members of Hope Church and three friends flew to Amman, Jordan in December. Our intention was to go and celebrate Christmas with the Barbars and other refugee families living there.”
The Barbars are a Christian Iraqi family of four, driven out of their hometown of Qaraqosh by ISIS in August of 2014. “The family first fled into Kurdistan and then to Jordan where they declared themselves refugees. They live in an area of Amman with other Iraqi refugees; usually three or four families will crowd into one small apartment,” Mr. McLean explained. “They aren’t allowed to work in Jordan and they can’t go back to Iraq because they have a target on their back. Some Iraqis went back to Qaraqosh with the understanding they would be protected by the Iraqi army. Then one day the army left, all of a sudden, and ISIS moved right back in.”
Raed and Juliette Barbar have two young girls, aged four and six. “The Barbars are lovely folks. Raed was a businessman in Iraq who owned a chicken farm, a car dealership and a pool hall. In one day he went from that to being a refugee with just the clothes on his back and the money in his pockets,” said Mr. McLean. “We met many other families without sponsors while we were in Amman. There were doctors, professors, truck drivers, all kinds of people.” Hoping that other individuals or groups might be interested in sponsoring one of these families, Mr. McLean has brought back the required sponsorship paperwork and documents for thirteen Iraqi families. “We met these families and even took some videos of them. I encourage anyone who has an interest to think about sponsoring a family.”
“To sponsor a family of four, you have to have the capacity to support them for a year,” said Mr. McLean. In Quebec, the monetary value of that has been placed at around $21,000. “We’ve opened an account and people are welcome to contribute to it. We’re also taking donations of furniture and clothing for the family. But once they arrive, the most important thing we’ll have to do is to help them find jobs.”
Once the Barbar family arrives in Canada, their sponsors will also be responsible for accompanying the family through the process of learning how everything, like bussing, accessing health services, banking, and grocery shopping works in Quebec. They will also need help filling out all the government paperwork needed to apply for permanent residency. “We’ll divide up all those tasks among members of the church. We really hope that the family will integrate into our community.”
“I believe that sponsoring this family, everyone rallying around this family will be a great teambuilding experience for the members of our church. We should love our neighbours; they are from across the ocean but they are still our neighbours,” concluded Mr. McLean.
Anyone who would like more information about sponsoring a refugee family is welcome to call Paul McLean at 819 820-5932.
Members of Hope Community Church (at left)
with an Iraqi family in need of sponsorship.
A ‘Townships Santa’ gives out gifts to Iraqi child refugees in Jordan.
McLean family members preparing gift bags for the refugees.
Paul McLean (far right) poses with his wife and chil
dren and some of their new Iraqi friends.