Port Union Cares (L to R) Rick, Ania, Harvey, Kathryn, Christine, Kim, Greg, Valerie, Kristin, Beyhan, and Khosh
PUC Members not pictured: Cindy, Jeff, and John
Photo Credit: Mike Pochwat
Port Union Cares (PUC) is one of many private sponsorship groups in Canada formed in response to the displacement of Syrians. After four years of civil war, more than four million Syrians have been forced to flee their homes. Most are now living in appalling conditions in Syria’s neighbouring countries; more than 75% of Syrian refugees are women and children. An increasing number of refugees are risking their lives along perilous routes trying to reach Europe. A similar story is unfolding in Iraq and Northern Africa.
The January 2016 issue of the Centennial Community and Recreation Association newsletter featured a citizen’s invitations to form a private-sponsorship group in response to this crisis. More than a dozen people responded and subsequently formed Port Union Cares. Together we are working to help families fleeing conflict and persecution to resettle safely in Canada.
We have already completed a sponsorship of a Syrian family of four and are currently in the midst of our second sponsorship of a family from Eritrea. We are anticipating one more family of three in 2018. Fundraising is ongoing, both for our current family and for others in need of sponsorship. The more money we collect, the more refugees we can help.
While we are a non-denominational organization, we have partnered with AURA, a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH), and through them with the St. Jude’s Wexford Anglican Church, to privately sponsor refugees.
Port Union Cares is a team of caring individuals from the Port Union neighbourhood in Scarborough. Our ethos is simple: do what you can, when you can, to the best of your ability. Together, we are working to make a difference. Each of us come from different backgrounds but have all been motivated to act. Here are some of our stories:
“I believe I am very fortunate to have been born in Canada. Things we take for granted here are only dreams for people living in many countries throughout the world. With ongoing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere, I believe it’s important that we try to help any way we can. I have heard many stories from individuals who have come to Canada over the years to achieve a better life for themselves and their families. This includes my father and grandparents who were fortunate to come to Canada following the Hungarian Revolution. “ – John Csazar
“Our involvement with Port Union Cares is our response to the Syrian crisis, which, in many ways, is far removed from our day-to-day lives. In other ways, we are descendants of similar histories: Khosh arrived as a refugee with his family and Beyhan, a first-generation Canadian, was born to parents who immigrated to Canada to seek a better life. Our action is both personal and political.
Global displacement isn’t limited to Syria, though our response was ignited by it. There are more than 60 million people displaced worldwide, including those from Afghanistan, Somalia, Columbia, and Iraq; devastatingly, children comprise half of the world’s refugees.
This number is a historic high. Although we can’t wrap our heads around the gravity of 60+ million, we hope that our local movement demonstrates that we all have the capacity to help. However small that gesture seems in the context of global displacement, to those persons supported by groups like ours, it may mean the world.” – Beyhan and Khosh Farhadi
“We are proud to be Canadian and ever so thankful for the good fortune of our birthplace. The safety, security, and acceptance, that we take so easily for granted, provides each Canadian the opportunity to live meaningful lives. Others are not so fortunate.
Late last summer, I happened to read the novel, ‘When the Moon is Low’ by Nadia Hashimi. While it is a work of fiction, this story is based on the very real and horrific struggles that refugees are facing as they flee the war-torn Middle East. My eyes were opened and my heart was heavy. It became clear to me that refugees are simply ordinary people who, through the accident of their birth, are forced to face extraordinary struggle. This growing sense of injustice that I was feeling was soon magnified many times over by the picture of little Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach. My husband, Greg, and I were moved to act.
We are committed to help bring a refugee family to a new home and new hope in Canada. Welcoming new Canadians is part of what defines us as a country. Several decades ago, my parents helped to welcome a family of Vietnamese boat people to Canada. Now we follow proudly in their footsteps.” – Kim and Greg Deighton
“There are so many needs in this world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Helping to sponsor a family displaced by war is finally a small but concrete way to do something. As long-time residents of the Port Union community, we’ve been fortunate to raise three kids here and we’d like others to share some of our good fortune.” – Christine Tarnowski and Harvey Schnell
“As a Secondary Teacher with the TDSB, I too often see the effects of war and conflict in terms of displacement, post-traumatic stress, loss of identity and so much more. I have seen students who have left their home countries in search of a better future, come here unsure of what will become of them, but that fear that they have in their eyes upon first arrival, gradually subsides and hope comes through in the form of friendship, security in education and a free voice. I only hope that through Port Union Cares that we can give that security and voice to those who need it the most and who are entitled to live a life that is supported and free from immediate conflict and danger. My family on both sides is made up of immigrants from the Netherlands and the Ukraine, and my grandfather escaped a war-torn country, fleeing to Canada to give his family a better life. In his legacy, I want to make sure that I personally do what I can to give that same freedom and purpose to others.” -Kristin Bielow
“When I saw the thousands of people streaming out of Syria last year because of the conflicts that were tearing their country apart, I knew I wanted to do something to help. I had recently retired and I had the time to heed the government’s call for Canadians to privately sponsor Syrian refugees. I just wasn’t sure how or where to get started. Soon after that, Beyhan Farhadi wrote a column in the CCRA News looking for people interested in forming a Syrian refugee sponsorship group. I was very happy to join her and the other like-minded people who answered her call.
I have lived in Canada my whole life and I’m grateful to live in such a safe place. But if my husband, my three children and I lived in a country that was self-destructing like Syria and we were forced to leave, I have always wondered if there would be someone somewhere to give us safe haven from the storm. I can do that for someone else right now and that’s why I’m part of Port Union Cares.” – Kathryn Stocks