Monday, January 11, 2016


by Martha McCracken

Saanich  Peninsula Refugee Initiative Group (SPRIG)

"Syria's civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. Since 2011, it is estimated that 12 million people have been killed or forced to flee their homes, representing over 50% of the country's pre-war population. As of November 2015, over 4.2 million Syrians have registered as refugees, most of them women and children."   Inter-Cultural Association (ICA) of Greater Victoria, fact sheet.

   We have all seen the horrific images stemming from the Syrian refugee crisis - it is a truly appalling situation.  So, back in November 2015, when I heard that interested people (more than 80!) here on the peninsula were getting together to hear an ICA presentation about the refugee situation, I knew that I needed to attend.  And I did.  Two community gatherings later, hosted by St. John's United Church at St. Paul's United Church, SPRIG came into being, and I found myself signing on to its fund raising working group and steering committee.
   So what has SPRIG been doing?  SPRIG's stated goal is to undertake the private sponsorship of a refugee family to settle here on the Saanich Peninsula.  To do this, SPRIG first needed to amass sufficient funds to prove that it could support a refugee family, at least one-third of an initial estimate of $40,000 for a family of four.  This has been done.  In fact, SPRIG has been overwhelmed by the kind and generous financial support so far, all coming through word-of-mouth.
    In the meantime, SPRIG is fortunate that St. John's United Church is continuing to  accept cash or cheque donations payable to St. John's United Church,  Refugee Sponsorship Fund, 10990 West Saanich Road, North Saanich BC V8L 5R9 and is issuing the related income tax receipts.  As well, on its website, St. John's United Church has established a PayPal account to accept credit card donations.  All these donations will be transferred to the ICA case-specific account once it is in place.
     Now, SPRIG is preparing to enter into a formal constituent undertaking with the ICA, which is a government-approved Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). Once the undertaking is signed, a refugee family will be assigned to SPRIG and the ICA will set up a case specific funding account for SPRIG, to which tax receiptable donations can be made.      While a refugee family is not likely to arrive on the Saanich Peninsula for at least six months, there is a lot to be done.  To find the most recent information on how you can help, steering committee updates, and the progress of our community and refugee family, I would encourage you to visit: SPRIG website:  
SPRIG email:

As for me, I am busy chairing the fund raising committee with the support of a great team.  Our first actual event is a benefit concert, featuring the West Coast Chamber Players and the Sooke Harbour String Quartet.  It will take place on Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 3 p.m. at St. John's United Church, 10990 West Saanich Road, North Saanich.  Tickets are $25 and are available at Tanner's Books in Sidney.  I hope to see you there.

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