YMCA of Western Ontario, Windsor-Essex County Branch
Submitted by Hugo Vega, General Manager of Settlement, Integration and Newcomer Services
As a settlement agency in Windsor, and a partner with the Community Refugee Fund, we support newcomers with a wide spectrum of needs towards their own measures of independence and self-reliance. This process varies in time and types of interventions, and is always undertaken in partnership with a large number of our partners and strategies to be effective and for newcomers to get what they need from the most appropriate sources. This is critical to their success as most families, by virtue of the migration experience, have to overcome a multitude of challenges in their first five years in Canada. We would like to share one individual example of how the Community Refugee Fund has supported us as an agency in providing further support to clients in ways we simply could not. Refugees often do not have certain documentation because of their circumstances, which impacts their ability to meet basic and greater needs.
There was a situation for a Haitian couple who we were assisting. They fled to Canada and wanted to sponsor one of their children with whom they had been separated from, and who at the time was residing in Jamaica. Assisting with the process in Jamaica was a Canadian Immigration official who denied the initial application citing insufficient documentation to validate their relationship. Based on the rejection, they were given the option to do DNA testing to prove their relationship at a cost of $700.
Having been in Canada for a relatively short time, the couple was still trying to reach some financial stability. With the wife/mother being home to care for their other three children and the husband working in a farm in Leamington, they made just enough to survive.
The added burdened caused by the stress and cost of the DNA testing, on top of everything else they were facing and overcoming, brought on panic and frustration. They began to have an emotional breakdown in our office as we explained all of this to them. The heartbreak of having to prove their parenthood, and, as we could see in their eyes, their love and care for their child was quite overwhelming.
After talking them through the process and focusing them on possible solutions, we verified their income (through their notice of assessment) and quickly exhausted any suggestions we could think of for them. It became evident that they really were in need of external help.
With nowhere else to turn, we presented the needs of this family for financial help to the Community Refugee Fund held in trust by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in Windsor, Ontario. This Fund provided financial support for the family for the expenses of the immigration process through donations. These parents regained hope for reunification with their child, and to begin to imagine the day when they would be able to hold him again. In due time, that day came and their new life as a family in Canada was able to begin. This is a dream that many refugee families are not able to see come true for themselves for a number of reasons, but in this case, than to this Community Refugee Fund, it a success story that we can celebrate.
What the Community Refugee Fund accomplishes is humanitarian work in the truest sense of the words, and it is critical to refugees as it is to other service providers and to our greater community.