|By Toronto_map.png: Lencerderivative work: SimonP (talk) - Toronto_map.png, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7159145|
Our two first sponsored families made the choice to move to the suburbs, in large measure to be closer to a job held by the dad in the second family. I'm not a suburban person, to put it mildly, but I've been discovering some excellent new things there (like the Damas Grill House and Juice Bar at Victoria Park and Lawrence, which has no website of its own, but here's a larger review of Syrian and Lebanese food in the area, guided by the heroes who founded Crown Pastries).
In any event, in consultation with the family, we made the decision to settle the third family close to their relatives (which means across town from most of the sponsorship group members). What I hate: driving on the DVP to go see them to help them with something. What I love: seeing them close to each other and helping each other out.
Baby news: The second family we sponsored had a baby girl in September, and she is adorable. Our newest family has two super cute little boys: a one-year-old and a three-year-old.
|The boys' room in their new place, just before they arrived...|
The sponsorship group itself has been through various ups and downs. Some people who helped a lot at the beginning are nowhere to be seen, and others have really come through in amazing ways. I spend crazy amounts of time stewing at people who promised to do something and then flaked out (this is way, way worse in my books than never showing up at all). Or feeling mad at the people who keep saying, "I can't do that, I'm busy." We are all busy, you fool.
My advice for anyone starting a sponsorship group: get everyone to sign a form saying that they will take care of something (and specifying exactly what that something is: housing, dental, ESL, school registrations, doctor sign-up), and to write out the following sentence in their own blood: "I understand that at some point I may be unable to execute this duty, and if or when this happens, I will find someone else to cover for me. I promise not to just write to the group organizer and tell her to find someone else." OK, it felt good to get that off my chest. All that said, I've largely been really reassured about human nature through this process: most people really do want to help. Not just group participants and volunteers, also school secretaries, building superintendents, bus drivers, random community members. Thanks, everyone.
People talk a lot about what an amazing multicultural scene we have in Toronto. One thing I appreciate much more clearly now than I ever did before: this doesn't happen by itself. It requires huge labour and sacrifices on the part of newcomers who are arriving and trying to learn how to fit in, and how to make their lives work here, encountering new social rules and expectations. It also requires a lot of work on the part of settled Canadians to bring newcomers into our fold in a way that will enable them to live here freely and well.
Fellow Canadians who are up for the work can find out more about how to get involved through the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program. Right now there are opportunities for Canadians to form a private sponsorship group that will get financial support, too, if you have more time than money to share. We've got another 11 months to finish the one-year responsibility period for our third family, and I don't know if we'll take on any other sponsorships after this one, but I know we'll all have been changed and strengthened by this experience.