He's also mobilizing the community to provide everything from housing, language training, clothing and career counselling to the new arrivals. Estill's efforts illustrate the complexities of Canada's private refugee sponsorship program, under which sponsors commit to meeting all of a newcomer's needs for the first few months of their time in Canada.
The wheels of Canada's refugee system do not always turn quickly, particularly when newcomers are being brought to the country by private sponsors rather than via a government-run program.
"I wasn't finding that other organizations or government were doing things fast enough."
Community Stepping Up To HelpWhile he's perfectly prepared to put up the cash, the logistics of welcoming and establishing 50 families are beyond the scope of one individual, he said. To that end, he's been working his way through community contacts to persuade people to contribute. "All of what we're doing is volunteerism," Estill said. "We're not paying anybody, we're just calling friends and saying, 'listen, I need a favour here.'" Estill said the community has stepped up in spades. The local Salvation Army branch has agreed to round up clothes for the newcomers. Two hotels have committed to putting the refugees up for their first few nights until more long-term housing can be arranged. Families have signed on to welcome people into their homes, and enough volunteers have come forward to ensure that each family can be matched with one English-speaking and one Arab-speaking mentor upon arrival. These mentors will be instrumental in helping refugees set up bank accounts, acquire official identification, enrol in schools and officially settle into the Canadian system.
English language coaching and career counselling will also be available, Estill said, adding that the project is benefiting from a piece of good luck. "There is actually an imbalance, there are more jobs than there are people right now. I have employers lining up, basically, he said. "If you have 50 families, you're probably only going to have 75 people who want jobs...I have single employers that will take 75 people."
"We're not paying anybody, we're just calling friends and saying, 'listen, I need a favour here.'"
Government Paying For Some ExpensesEstill's total cost is less than it might be in ordinary circumstances. The political turmoil causing refugees to flea Syria in droves has prompted the government to ease restrictions and pick up the tab for expenses they wouldn't normally shoulder. Ottawa will pay for medical and travel costs for privately sponsored refugees fleeing the country. Health-care coverage will also be provided by the federal government, a departure from normal protocol in which the province assumes those costs. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed to bringing 25,000 refugees into Canada over the next several months, about 10,000 of whom are expected to be privately sponsored. Follow @mich_mcq on Twitter
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