THE PIPELINE: Serving Special Populations and Making a Difference–Refugees

by Stephen Abram

For Internet @ Schools and Computers in Libraries


This column is a bit of an indulgence since it sits at the overlapping personal interests of my life—libraries, charity, and a passion for making a difference. But then, I know this mix is pretty typical of our profession.

Some background: In Canada we committed to take in more than 25,000 refugees in just a few short months at the end of 2015 and early 2016. Most of these refugees are families who have been living (with millions of others) for years in camps or desperately engaging in perilous sea travel. Too many have perished in this way, and your heart cannot help but break just by seeing the news photos.

So what is to be done? As an individual, you’re overwhelmed by the enormity of it all. How can I possibly make a difference? What can I personally do?

My wife’s neighborhood book club had just such a conversation. One of the women in the group had sponsored a family coming to Canada during the refugee crisis in Rwanda. They determined to sponsor one individual, but he arrived at the airport with eight orphans in tow whom he couldn’t leave behind So, what the heck! They took them all on. This was decades ago and that “family” has successfully integrated into our society and contributes gratefully to Canada. It’s one of the success stories that inspired our group. We immediately determined that research was needed and set the goal to sponsor a family in the group sponsorship class. (The Canadian government directly sponsors thousands of refugees as part of our international commitments. In Canada, you can also sponsor refugees as an individual or a group or in the family class.)

So, our ragged troupe set out to figure all this out. Now 4–5 months later, we’re all set to accept our family. We needed to raise $40,000 to cover the costs in Toronto for 1 year, find housing, household goods, and much more. We’ve all been through our required police checks and taken the required church- or government-sponsored refugee training. By the time this article comes out, we hope to have met our family (one of 25,000-plus this year alone)!”

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