The Armenian Community Center in Toronto, Canada are dedicated to helping individuals and families whose lives have been torn by the war in Syria. As many are still trying to flee the Middle East, the Syrian crisis has become the world’s largest migration since World War II.
Lorig Katerjian and Angelique Astourian-Kirijian, two Armenian women living in Canada have dedicated their time to helping this cause, answering calls in the office. Each day they are faced with Syrians who are trying to help relatives caught up in the war. Angelique was born in Aleppo and moved to Canada before the conflict in Syria began. Prior to the war, she spent her time volunteering for the Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) office, where she assisted Syrian-Armenians connecting with sponsors to facilitate their move to Canada.
Angelique says that she has many friends and family who are either currently in Syria or have fled to Lebanon call her asking for sponsorship. Unfortunately, she is not able to sponsor them as she does not have the resources to do so. It costs a lot to bring even one individual over to Canada.
The SAH office has been running for four years now, and initially started off helping Iraqi families and managed to assist four families during its first year of operation. Since then, they have helped a total of three hundred and fifty individuals over four years. This year alone they have received more than two thousand applications from Syrians in need of funding. The increasing number of applications is, however, consistent with Canada’s plan to settle fifty thousand refugees by the end of 2016.
The Karakouzian’s are a family who came to Canada through the assistance of the Armenian Community Center and arrived in July this year after an eight-month process. Once the center receives the application, it is sent to the processing office. They then wait for an interview with a government official for approval. Interviews can take place in Turkey, Jordan, or as it was for the Karakouzian’s, Lebanon.
The sponsorship office also helps both refugee individuals and families during their transition to Canadian life. Angelique says that upon arriving, they are assisted with social insurance and medical papers and anything else required while in Canada. They do their utmost to assist Syrian’s in finding jobs, most of whom have been able to do so within the first week. The ARS Armenian School also assists refugee children during their first year by providing them with free tuition.
Sponsors are responsible for providing shelter, food, transportation, and clothing at an annual cost of twelve thousand Canadian dollars. This will ensure that the sponsors can meet the needs of those they are assisting and ensure a comfortable start to their new life.