Montreal youth to sponsor refugee family

Published January 1, 2010

Archbishop Fred Hiltz (left) expressed deep appreciation for the efforts of this Montreal youth group. Beside him: Ely Nesset, Jasmine Lemay, Melissa Rollit, Erin Dunlop, Bethany Hartropp and Dominic Piche.

A youth group from the diocese of Montreal is embarking on a mission to raise $20,000 to sponsor a refugee family of four.

Representing the parishes of St. Mary’s, Kirkland, and St. George’s, St. Anne de Bellevue, the youth hope to raise at least half of the money by March or April, the months they’ve targeted to bring the family to Canada.

This is the first youth group in the Anglican Church of Canada to step up to the 50 refugee family sponsorship program challenge that is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). The refugee families chosen for PWRDF’s program are “visa office referred,” meaning they have been selected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and referred to Canada for resettlement.

“This is really very impressive,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, when the group met with him to present its plan. “Our church has been at the forefront of refugee sponsorship and this raises the profile even more. It’s exciting to see your leadership. I’m really, really proud of you.”

Archbishop Hiltz said that so far, 19 families have been sponsored, and six more are in the process of being sponsored. “It looks like we will be able to go well beyond 50,” he said, of the PWRDF initiative, noting that 19 of the church’s 30 dioceses have made commitments to join the project.

Just how do they plan to raise enough money to support a family of four for a year? Aside from asking parishes in Montreal to invite them to sell soup and baguette lunches at Sunday services, the group has launched a CD project. For $15, you get a compact disk case explaining the project and bearing your name. It will hang with hundreds of others in St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Montreal.

Archbishop Hiltz said that by twinning with another parish, the youth have offered “a great model” for other parishes who may be hesitant to join the PWRDF project because they don’t think they can do it alone. He also noted that “you’re the only youth group that has taken on this challenge.”

The primate and his spouse, Lynne Samways-Hiltz, not only issued a cheque and bought CDs, they promised to tell the group’s story everywhere they go. Archbishop Hiltz also made a commitment to write a letter of support for the group’s project.

Not exactly new kids on the block when it comes to fundraising for social justice causes, the two-parish group has already sponsored a foster child overseas, and then moved into making interest-free loans available to Kiva, an overseas NGO micro-credit program.

Each member donated $5 and had $100 to invest, said Erin Dunlop, one of the youth members. But then they thought, “we can’t stop at $100,” and decided to raise $1,500 within one year, said Bethany Hartropp, the group’s co-leader.

With the passion and energy of youth, they initiated a flurry of bake sales, spaghetti suppers, bottle drives and car washes (“You go to church, you come out with a washed car”) and raised $3,500.

The money, which is re-invested as borrowers pay off the loans, has benefited 93 people, most of them single mothers who wanted to run small businesses so they could have a decent livelihood for their families. “We realized this was real,” said Melissa Rollit, youth member. “We were changing lives.”

As sponsors, youth member Dominic Piche said they are aware of their obligation to walk with the refugee family every step of the way. This includes helping family members get settled into a safe and affordable home, guiding them through the bureaucratic maze of getting social insurance numbers and health cards, assisting in the enrollment of the children in school, and other things that Canadians normally take for granted, such as riding the subway or buying food.

“We’re looking into a quality of life that the family can sustain after the one-year commitment, something that will be realistic for them to continue independently,” said Hartropp.

For more information

  • about the CD project, please call Bethany Hartropp at 514-695-6812, or contact her at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, 75 Kirkland Blvd., Kirkland, Que. H95 1N5.
  • about PWRDF’s 50 Refugee Families Sponsorship Project, go to or call Carolyn Vanderlip, 50th anniversary program facilitator, at 1-866-308-7973 or 416-924-9199 ext. 266.


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