As the first wave of Kosovar refugees begins settling in at temporary homes at Canadian military bases, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund is asking parishes and dioceses that wish to act as refugee sponsors to contact diocesan refugee co-ordinators.
Bern Jagunos of PWRDF said a number of parishes and dioceses have contacted General Synod offices indicating an interest in sponsorship. She said some parishes are also engaged in welcoming Kosovar refugees to their communities, trying to make them feel at home.
The emergency aid effort to meet the needs of refugees still in the Balkans is growing. The Primate’s Fund announced an initial grant of $5,000 but that has just been the beginning of the Anglican response. One parish, St. John’s in Victoria, B.C., has raised $16,170 for PWRDF to send to relief for the Kosovars. Rev. Harold Munn, rector of St. John’s, said the “amazing” outpouring of response was thanks to a low-key effort which included distributing envelopes earmarked for Kosovo relief in the pews.
Mr. Munn announced the donation opportunity Easter Sunday and donations began to pour in, including one for $5,000. “This church has a tradition of responding to the needs of refugees and their families,” Mr. Munn said. “But I hadn’t expected this kind of response.” The parish has an average Sunday attendance of 350 worshippers.
The Primate’s Fund is sending Kosovo donations to its partner agency Action by Churches Together, an ecumenical church emergency relief agency based at the World Council of Churches in Geneva. Canada is committed to hosting 5,000 Kosovar refugees in the emergency resettlement effort. The first group of 248 arrived May 4.
Some of the refugees will be quickly reunited with relatives under a family reunification program. Most refugees are suffering from shock, trauma, depression and malnutrition, and need professional help. Efforts to resettle the refugees are focusing on Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, which all have Albanian communities and therefore potential translators.
Ms. Jagunos says parishes seeking further information on sponsorship should contact their diocese and talk to the refugee co-ordinator. PWRDF still accepts donations for Kosovo relief. A hotline for updates on PWRDF response is at (416) 924-9199, ext. 806. The federal government also has a toll free hotline information on refugee sponsorship at: 1-888-410-0009.
A federal Web site on Kosovo is at http://cicnet.ci.gc.ca/english/kosovo/index.html.
Bob Bettson is a freelance writer based in Toronto.