Cookie boxes are among the creative fundraising initiatives of the Roots Reunited constituent group hoping to reunite a refugee family. (Courtesy Victoria Christison)

Cookie boxes are among the creative fundraising initiatives of the Roots Reunited constituent group hoping to reunite a refugee family. (Courtesy Victoria Christison)

Greater Victoria group aims to reunite extended refugee family

Keeping kin together has positive psychological and emotional impacts

A refugee sponsorship group aptly named Roots Reunited aims to bring a large family originally from the Middle East the gift of proximity.

The constituent group formed and began working with Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) in early 2020. It’s one of about 70 ICA is working with. This particular group of 11 is sponsoring a specific family, kin to refugees now living in Canada, member Victoria Christison explained.

Family reunification is significantly beneficial, stressed Sabine Lehr, private sponsorship manager for ICA. Refugees are people forced to leave their homes and most have already been separated from relatives for many years during displacement by the time they settle in a third country such as Canada.

“The inability to reunite with their extended family members with whom they may have had very close ties in the home country can negatively impact a person’s psychological and emotional well-being, and thus play a part in their ability to settle down and establish roots in their new community,” Lehr said. It also has economic implications as newcomers may need to support relatives living in precarious situations.

READ ALSO: Volunteers who supported Syrian refugees reconnecting to help Afghan newcomers

“If those relatives can be reunited in Canada, they are better able not only to move forward psychologically and emotionally but also from a socio-economic standpoint.”

Roots Reunited has raised about $62,000 and needs about $25,000 more for this specific sponsorship.

“It’s been a challenge but we’re rising to it,” Christison said.

Since they formed just prior to COVID-19 hit, creating dire conditions for events and fundraisers, the team has had to think outside the box – or in it in the case of Christmas.

Among the usual bottle drive, the group sold boxes stuffed with cookies for the last two winters, members’ kids rode lengthy stretches of the Lochside trail for pledges and copious books have been collected and sold. The key is creativity, Christison said.

READ ALSO: Citizenship becomes icing on the cake for Vancouver Island Syrian refugee family

Proving they have the funds is just the first step in the application.

“It could take years for them to get here,” Christison noted. Even in the last two years the amount required has changed a couple of times based on government requirements.

Prior to the pandemic, the government aimed to bring the average processing time down to 12 months but COVID-19 had a severe, negative impact, Lehr said. There is currently a large backlog of cases and the ICA expects sponsorship applications submitted last year and this year will take several years before anyone arrives in Victoria.

Learn how to donate and discover a new round of book and puzzle sales starting Jan. 31 at

READ ALSO: UVic group seeks to sponsor, mentor refugee family

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