Lifeline Syria, a grassroots resettlement project for Syrian refugees, launched their operation to resettle more than 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) this June. While civil unrest continues in Syria, Canada has committed to supporting the resettlement of 10,000 refugees across the country. The Salvation Army is involved with the project as one of 92 agreement holders, providing a sponsorship avenue between sponsors and refugees.
Lifeline Syria hopes to revive the Canadian hospitality that resettled thousands of Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam War. “Thirty-five years ago, Operation Lifeline, another grassroots project, privately sponsored 60,000 refugees from Southeast Asia over the course of a year and a half,” says Paula Marshall, immigrant and refugee services liaison at territorial headquarters. “Some people who were involved then are involved now, saying, ‘We’ve achieved this before. Let’s do it again.’ ”
Sponsorship groups have sprouted from Rotary clubs, church Bible studies and community groups with a minimum of five people. Funds provided by sponsorship groups will assist refugee families with housing, food, clothing, education and other needs, meeting the equivalent of Ontario income assistance.
“If you have housing that you can offer rent-free for a year, that’s going to reduce the cost,” says Marshall. “Lifeline Syria is looking for people interested in helping with social and emotional support during the settlement, too.”
Municipal, provincial and federal governments are also providing political support. Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke at the launch in June, encouraging citizens and politicians to get involved in the project.
“Having all three levels of government involved is amazing and almost unheard of in these cases,” says Marshall. “The enthusiasm they have about it keeps people optimistic.”
For more information about refugee sponsorship or the Army’s involvement with Lifeline Syria, contact Paula Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org.