Explosion three years ago caused the Kaspars to escape to Canada

Syrian refugee Maha Kaspar still remembers the worst five minutes of her life. Three years ago a mortar shell suddenly exploded outside her Aleppo home, kicking up debris and sending clouds of smoke high into the air.



Welcoming crowd of about 100 people includes local municipal officials

A family of refugees has moved from the balmy temperature of war-torn Syria to the ice and snow of northern Canada. Hussein and Fatima Aarafat and their nine children landed in Whitehorse in January.



St. Clare of Assisi welcomes second refugee family

After countless security checks, paperwork, and two sleepless nights en route to the other side of the world, five Iraqi refugees have landed in Canada. “We didn’t believe we would come here.”



St. Clare of Assisi Parish helps a family of four that fled from ISIS attacks

Four persecuted Syrians have a new home in Coquitlam thanks to a local parish. “Canada is a new start. Our family has been born again,” said Samer Aleid. Samer and his wife Jolyana, fled for their lives with their daughter…


Their Personal Story: Journey and Experience

In 2013 alone, 550 refugees arrived in Vancouver under the Refugee Sponsorship Program of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Last year due to the great danger in the Middle East and Africa we were able to welcome only 52 people.

More than 500 refugees being sponsored by us are still awaiting visa approval overseas. Many of these people are from the Middle East where they are suffering persecution and threatened annihilation for their Christian faith.

The Shaboo family – father, mother, brother and two young sisters, were sponsored by Christ the Redeemer Parish and arrived in April 2013.

Yosif Shaboo, son provides this testimonial.

We are always in need of parishes to help us sponsor and settle families in Vancouver. The application process is supported by our office and we will train parish leaders to help in the settlement. We pray you will help us get these most desperate families to safety.

As Catholics there is much more to do to help our marginalized brothers and sisters. We are able to run these programs with a very small staff and with leaders developed within our parishes. With your prayers, we can extend our mission.

“Leaving to come to Vancouver was scary but nothing compared to living with the violence in Syria. We are thankful to the Archdiocese for helping us with the sponsorship.”

–A newly arrived refugee


Every year, many refugees enter Canada in search of safety from being persecuted in their home countries. Whether they are faced with persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political views or membership to a particular social group, every situation is different. Upon arrival, each person and family carries with them their own personal story entailing the journey they have embarked on and the experiences they have endured.

Once settled, each person begins to discover the freedom they were missing in their home countries. By sharing their own personal stories, they are conveying to others the opportunities that wait for them in Canada, as well as touching others with their emotional accounts of what they had to go through in order to get here.

Hannah’s Story

Beneficiary of the Refugee Sponsorship program, Hannah Asmaro relates her story from surviving bomb and missile attacks to finding peace in Canada.


“Refugee sponsorship is a very rewarding experience”

                                                                             Nora Riordan, Sponsor

The Refugee Sponsorship program not only affects the lives of refugees but also those of the sponsors. Helping someone, who has been faced with persecution and has endured living conditions in war situated environments, adjust to a new life in Canada can have a profound and touching impact. By sharing their stories on witnessing refugees settle and adapt to the unknown, sponsors inspire others to follow their example and be of service during the adjustment period.

Nora’s Story:

Committed parishioner, Nora Riordan, shares her experience on her involvement in assisting refugees from Tibet and encourages others to get involved in the Project Tibet Society.

Click here for Nora's Story


By: Nora Riordan
Date: July 2014

A few years ago, an agreement was reached between the Project Tibet Society of Canada and the Canadian government, in collaboration with the Dalai Lama, to allow sponsorship of some displaced Tibetans living in northeastern India to come to Canada between 2013 and 2016 (approximately 1,000,- 220 which would come to B.C.). The newcomers would get no financial assistance from the Government so it was up to private sponsors as well as the Project Tibet Society (in B.C., with the collaboration with the Tibetan Cultural society of B.C.) to raise money to assist them on their arrival until they are self-sufficient.

I am a member of the Vancouver Interfaith Refugee Committee, and heard about this unique sponsorship in 2013. I was eager to assist, and with gratitude to Evelyn Vollet and Diane Chua of the Archdiocese Service and Justice as well as the parishioners of St. Peter’s Parish in New Westminster, we are currently waiting for a family of 4 to arrive some time later this year. Other private sponsors have come from the United and Unitarian churches as well as Or Shalom synagogue. A group of 5 from the Sunshine Coast and a few local individuals/families have sponsored. I believe approximately 20 have arrived so far.

Refugee sponsorship is a very rewarding experience. Not only are we able to share in the excitement of arriving in a new country with the newcomers, we can also see how much there is to learn about their new surroundings, things we take for granted, like learning transit, opening bank accounts, to how to use voice mail (I can relate to the latter myself!). Warm and lasting friendships grow along the way and it is exciting to see the small successes reached gradually. St. Peter’s Parish has sponsored numerous individuals and families since the early 1970’s. I have been lucky to have been a part of the committee at St. Peter’s in the past 10 years who have sponsored 2 families – one from Sudan and one from Iraq. Both are doing extremely well now and I have felt my life enriched greatly from their friendship.

I encourage those parishes in B.C., if they are financially able, to sponsor an individual or family for one year. Many of the adults have good English, enough that they hope to find work within a few months’ of arrival, so sometimes the financial costs are minimized. Those that feel they cannot financially support a family or individual at this time can also do the following:

For the Tibetans coming to B.C. that don’t have sponsors (the majority), and because this program ends in 2016, Project Tibet plans to rent a large house in Greater Vancouver (and Victoria) for up to 2 years, housing a few families/individuals for a few months at a time until they find jobs and become self-sufficient.


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A Tibetan family
arrived at
Tibetan newcomers pose outside of the transition house in Burnaby Tibetan newcomers are greeted by their sponsors at Vancouver airport on Dec. 14, 2013.

For more information, please contact tcsbcresettlement@gmail.com, or check out these websites for Tibetan Cultural Society of British Columbia and Project Tibet Society – The Tibetan Resettlement Project in Canada.

How Can I Help?

Parishes and/or individuals can help in settlement by:

  • contributing towards rent payments
  • sharing if you have or know of an apartment/suite that is available at a reasonable rent
  • helping with costs for such things as groceries, toiletries, start-up costs for furnishing/donations (furniture, electronics, kitchenware)
  • mentoring, helping with employment opportunities
  • volunteering to teach English (for qualified ESL teachers)

For donations of goods and volunteering, click here to contact a sponsoring parish.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver – Refugee, Sponsorship & Resettlement is receiving donations to help provide the administrative support to assist parishes in embarking in Refugee Sponsorship. To donate, please click here.

All financial donations receive a tax receipt.

Those going outside of Vancouver to smaller communities like the Sunshine Coast need to be privately sponsored – the house rental as above would not work in those situations.

About the Refugee Sponsorship Program | Resources for Refugees
Refugee Sponsorship Program: Getting Involved | Refugee Sponsorship Program: News & Events



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