We are so excited to announce that, as of the end of May 2016, over $1 million has been raised by Chimp users in support of the global refugee crisis. Individuals, groups of motivated people, conscientious businesses, and charities have all done an incredible job to reach out to their networks and raise funds that will go a long way to help incoming refugees. Everyone at Chimp wants to say thank you to our community for doing such amazing work. The good that these donations will do is so important to the world.
The fundraising effort includes 42 giving groups, 8 large-scale campaigns, the massively successful TechPong event in October 2015, plus many individual donations large and small.
But where are donations going? How does your dollar get to the people who need it?
By now your media channels are no doubt saturated with images and video of refugees fleeing their homes for a chance at a safer place to start a new life. Thousands from the Middle East and Africa arrive in boats and on foot to eastern Europe every day, most of whom enter via Greece, a country already facing its own financial crisis.
Regardless of where refugees are coming from, refugees deserve long-term support. Enormous refugee camps like Dadaab and Zaatari are only temporary solutions for displaced people; many refugees must be transported around the world to countries with more space and resources, like Canada. As of April 7, the Canadian government had accepted more than 26,000 refugees and pledged to accept 10,000 more. But flying refugee families here is really only part of the way to a permanent solution. Once their feet are on the ground, more support, and more funding, is needed to ensure these new Canadians are able to become productive and happy members of society.
Dozens of agencies are working with private sponsors and the federal government to ensure a smooth transition for refugees from their home countries to Canada. One such agency is Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia (ISSofBC). ISSofBC has been helping new Canadians get settled for over 40 years, including assisting Vietnamese refugees in the late 1970s and Ugandans fleeing Idi Amin in 1972. Chris Stephenson, Departmental Coordinator – Language & Career Services, says that it is important not to get too fixated on one group or one aspect of the crisis: “Of course it’s a very devastating and awful situation that the Syrian people are going through but there are refugees coming from all over the world. So this issue is something that should be on Canadians’ minds as we move forward.”
The Canadian Front
Refugees are accepted to Canada in one of two ways: government and private sponsorship. Government sponsored refugees are placed in temporary housing and given up to one year of social assistance, entirely funded by government sources. The number of incoming government refugees is keeping ISSofBC staff busy. Chris Stephenson says his staff are “working at more than full capacity…Settlement staff are working around the clock.” They’ve settled more than 2,000 people between November 2015 and March 2016.
On the other hand, privately sponsored refugees are funded entirely by private sources. Community members must raise funds independently or in with the support of a registered charity. The money raised in the course of private sponsorship covers medical examinations, transportation, housing, food, clothing and more.
Charitable organizations like ISSofBC provide a variety of services to new Canadians, including language services, career counseling and training, trauma support, assistance with school enrolment, health care and more. The range of needs is wide: some refugees have just concluded 15 years in emergency camps, while others have been displaced relatively recently.
Once their immediate needs are met and permanent housing is secured, refugees are welcomed to join buddy programs offered by ISSofBC, MOSAIC, and similar organizations. Volunteers work with newcomers to help them adjust to Canadian culture and learn the language. Chris Stephenson says studies show that “refugees and immigrants contribute positively to the Canadian economy once they have the language and training that they need in order to get back into the workforce.” Volunteers in buddy programs greatly increase the speed of the transition from refugee to Canadian. “Quite a number of our volunteers are actually immigrants…it’s just another example that refugees and immigrants are civic-minded individuals,” says Stephenson.
Unfortunately, the global refugee crisis is not over. Conflicts continue to erupt, displacing innocent people from their homes and putting them in danger. It’s important to keep the ball rolling on fundraising and sponsorship in order to help as many people as possible, as long as the crisis lasts. What can you do? Sponsor a family. Start a giving group. Help a campaign reach its goal. Give to one of the top international aid charities. Together we can reach the next milestone.