2.B Sponsors: From Mobilization to Engagement
B.2 What other options to support refugees are available to private actors?
(i) What types of activities can individuals engage in to welcome refugees and help them integrate into their communities?
How Canada Does It
Individuals may be able to undertake sponsorship-type responsibilities at varying degrees with established sponsoring groups. Some individuals may not have the financial or settlement capacity to directly sponsor a refugee family, but wish to support and welcome refugees once they arrive.
Many community organizations that engage in welcoming and supporting refugees have established programs to match community members (e.g. volunteers) with newly arrived refugees to provide them with friendship, emotional support, and orientation to life in Canada. This type of support helps newcomers make connections in the community and helps them build social capital. These targeted matching programs may also be offered in schools or workplaces, so refugees have someone to turn to for advice, assistance, or information on life in their new communities. Targeted matching is offered under the Community Connections Stream of Canada’s Settlement Program and is available in many municipalities across Canada.
In addition to providing direct, in-person support to refugees by volunteering, individuals may also wish to hold charity drives to collect food, clothing, and other items for newly arrived refugees. Many individuals may also provide monetary donations to organizations and groups supporting or sponsoring refugees.
The Community Connections stream of Canada's Settlement Program aims to build bridges between newcomers and host communities. Projects funded through this stream support newcomers in making connections and forming networks within Canadian society while also engaging communities to welcome newcomers and support their full participation. This approach allows newcomers to develop a sense of belonging while enabling institutions and community members to better understand the contributions of newcomers and the challenges they face.
Committed engagement from community members also helps to ease feelings of isolation, promotes a sense of belonging, and enables newcomers to build social capital. Many of the direct services once offered under the previously separate HOST Program are the core activities of Community Connections. These services are based on local contexts and needs in three main areas:
- SETTLEMENT SUPPORT IN PUBLIC SPACES (e.g. schools, libraries)
- COMMUNITY-BASED GROUP EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES (e.g. sports events)
- TARGETED MATCHING, NETWORKING AND WORKSHOP (e.g. matching cased on common interests, conversation circles, and homework clubs).
Non-government groups organize initiatives to match Canadian volunteers with resettled refugees. For example, former volunteers of Matthew House in Toronto initiated a "Buddy-Up Program" to foster connections between refugees and community volunteers. When considering starting up a similar program, organizations must ensure they have capacity to recruit, screen/select, match, and monitor volunteers. One challenge in Canada has been the stretched capacity of the settlement sector to respond to the volume of people wanting to volunteer directly with refugees.