Special fund makes it easier to sponsor refugees in 2019

By Yasmine Ghania

Have you thought about sponsoring a refugee in the past, but shied away because of the fundraising involved? What if we told you that sponsoring a refugee is now a whole lot easier on your wallet, thanks to a special, time-limited fund. 

The 2019 Blended Visa-Office Referred (BVOR) Fund brings you that much closer to helping a refugee start a new chapter in Canada. It covers nearly all of the funds sponsors normally needed to raise, leaving them to focus on meeting the social and logistical needs of the new arrivals. 

The fund was created and is managed by the Refugee Hub at the University of Ottawa. It was offered for the first time in 2018. The response in Ottawa was outstanding, with about 55 new sponsorship groups forming here — 1/3 of the total created nationwide.

Last year’s fund was the key that opened the door for Amy Bartlett to become a sponsor for the very first time. She formed a group with 14 others Ottawa residents and they called themselves ‘Team Sponsor Wow.’

Thanks to the BVOR Fund, Amy’s group was able to welcome a widowed mother and her three children and help them feel comfortable in their new home.

Amy and the rest of Team Sponsor Wow, a group of 15 friends, who all sponsored for the first time. Photo by: The Refugee Hub

“I had been considering sponsorship for some time, and so once the BVOR Fund was announced, I immediately reached out to friends in Ottawa to see who would like to join up,” said Amy, who recently wrote about the experience on the Refugee Hub website.

It’s important to note that only sponsorships through the BVOR program are eligible for this fund. The BVOR Program matches refugees in urgent need of resettlement with private sponsors in Canada, in a cost-sharing arrangement with the federal government. The refugees are identified by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and are not usually known to the sponsors. This is different from the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program, where friends and family members can name the refugee they’d like to sponsor. Unfortunately, PSR sponsorships are not eligible for the BVOR Fund.

BVOR sponsorships last 12 months. The federal government provides income support for the first six months; after that, the sponsorship group provides another six months of financial support. Sponsors are responsible for social, logistical and moral support throughout the full year. 

Thanks to generous donations from the Shapiro Foundation and G. Barrie Landry, BVOR sponsors can apply to have the fund fully cover their six months of financial support. But hurry — the deadline to apply is September 9, 2019! 

The goal of this time-limited fund is to encourage sponsorship, getting closer to the goal of ensuring all 1,650 spots allocated to the BVOR Program will be filled, welcoming new neighbours and building stronger ties within our community. Although BVOR sponsors and refugees are matched without knowing each other beforehand, strong bonds and friendships can be created through this experience, between sponsors and newcomers and within the sponsorship group itself. 

So far, Amy and the rest of the Team Sponsor Wow have shared some great milestones with the family. The children have started school, their mother has started English lessons and the whole family went sledding for the first time in the winter.

The resettlement journey so far feels like one of the most piercingly human experiences I have ever had,” said Amy. By eliminating the need to do extensive fundraising, “the BVOR Fund really helped many people jump over that final hurdle and take the plunge.” 

The deadline for applications of the fund is Sept 9, but that’s still enough time to be part of this exciting movement. Just follow these two steps to get started:

  1. Talk to your friends, family, neighbours, colleagues or professional networks about starting a sponsor group.
  2. Email the BVOR Fund to let them know you’re interested. The staff at Refugee Hub will answer your questions and help you with the application.

Click here for more information.

We recognize that not everyone is ready to rally their friends and organize a group. If you feel like starting a sponsorship group is not the right fit for you, the BVOR Fund is also encouraging community members to contribute to refugee sponsorship through small and large donations, starting at only $10. The donations will go towards supporting the resettlement and sponsorship of refugees to Canada.

Find out more about how you can be part of a similar, life-changing experience through the 2019 BVOR Fund.

If you are an individual or group interested in sponsorship, contact bvorfund@refugeehub.ca or T: (613) 562-5800 ext. 1136.