Cleared for Take-Off. Syrian Family arriving soon


A local faith community’s Refugee Sponsorship Committee within the Algoma Presbytery, United Church of Canada, recently learned that the Syrian family they have been working so hard to bring to The Sault, will finally be cleared for take-off.

Willowgrove United Church (Tilley Rd., Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario) together with a Refugee Sponsorship Committee (RSC) comprised of members from several United Church congregations within the geographic boundaries of Algoma Presbytery, has continued to  move along the case file for the Syrian refugee family. The RSC has over 40 members. Several individuals, organizations and businesses have supported the work of the committee through various contributions, including monetary and consumer goods.

refugees homeAs Saultonline previously reported in June, the Refugee Sponsorship Committee was anxiously awaiting the arrival of a family that had already been confirmed for immigration to Canada back in April, 2016.

20160621_131631“We just want them here.” said Jeri Pearce.  “We want to get them out of the Refugee Camp in Lebanon. Everything has been approved. We’ve known since early April that our family has been approved to come to Canada. The hold-up is the exit Visa’s.” Pearce said in June, 2016.

“We reached out to everyone we can think of to try and get the family’s documents (exit visas) issued.” said Pearce today. “It must have worked, because we now know that they are coming.”

On Wednesday, July 20th, the RSC learned, via the United Church of Canada, the refugee family will arrive in the Sault on August 4th,2016. Exit visas have been issued, and things are moving along in a positive direction.

The Syrian family that fled the unrelenting violence in their home country over two years ago, will travel  “Lebanon to Cairo, and then they land in Toronto (Ontario) around 7:00 am. From there, they fly out at noon via Pearson International Airport and then onto The Sault. They should be here around 2:00 p.m.” shared Pearce.

20160621_131444The family is a “mom and dad, an 8 year old boy, and a 5 month old baby girl that was born in the Refugee Camp in Lebanon.”

Pearce added “We can pretty much assume, they’re going to be very tired when they land here.” Pearce said the family likely won’t be able to speak very much English, if any at all. The RSC has made sure to include language translators, and has labelled items throughout the home in Arabic script. The RSC began renting and preparing a home for the family in May, 2016  in the Sault’s east end.

A meeting of the Willowgrove UC Refugee Sponsorship Committee is forthcoming “There is  a meeting tonight to go over our preparations one more time… right down to our name tags” said Pearce. “We’ve been ready; We are ready; We’re all pretty excited now.”

Pearce encourages folks to go out to the airport on Thursday, August 4th, 2:00  pm to welcome the family to The Sault.  “People won’t be able to get right up to them, but it would be nice to see people going out (airport) to welcome them; wave at them; cheer them on.” she said.

Willowgrove United Church (Tilley Road) began the process several months ago as the sponsoring congregation, and with the support of United Churches in Algoma Presbytery, an application to bring a Syrian refugee family to Sault Ste. Marie was made. There are 40 members on the RSC team, and Jeri explained that the Committee is divided into several components to ensure a successful transition for the family.

20160621_131334The United Church of Canada is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). Working through the General Council office in Toronto, Ontario, The United Church of Canada helps to navigate the complicated pathway for sponsoring refugees. The RSC has also been getting advice through The Sault Community Career Centre, specifically, Newcomers Settlement Services. Willowgrove United Church members, Harold and Shirley McCarthy are the Chair(s) of the RSC.

Anyone who wishes to support the work of the Refugee Sponsorship Committee based out of Willowgrove United Church can reach them Monday-Friday, 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm at  705-254-5095. Cheques can be made out to Willowgrove Church Gifts and Memorials-Refugee Fund.

According to the United Nations, around 455,000 refugees are registered with the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA) in Lebanon, with many living in the country’s 12 refugee camps. (



  1. The culture shock must be staggering for those moving to Canada from Syria. Language, food, living arrangements, all without the help or guidance of family. Simply adjusting to not having someone trying to kill you on a daily basis would startle and amaze.

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