“The vast majority of the 4.8 million Syrians who have fled their country are from cities—retailers, professionals and business owners. As a result, almost 85% of them have chosen to settle in urban areas, mainly in Jordan. Most families have exhausted their resources and are now forced into dangerous and exploitive work—such as begging on the streets or prostitution—simply to survive.”

Read more online: https://www.unhcr.ca/how-you-can-help/donation-for-transformation/

At the West Kootenay Friends of Refugee AGM last night (November 1, 2017), the main topic of conversation was whether or not to proceed with another sponsorship.  The small group of members who have done most of the work of supporting our three sponsored families, did not feel they could proceed without others agreeing to take the lead in helping the next family. At this point, no one has stepped forward so we are looking at other options.

PROPOSAL: UNHCR Donation for Transformation

One of these alternatives is a new initiative developed by the UN Refugee Agency.  Their “Donation for Transformation” plan is aimed at helping some of the five million refugees who have been forced to leave Syria.

The most vulnerable of these refugees (in the informed opinion of the UNHCR) are those who have crossed the border into Jordan.  They are living in communities, not camps, and have exhausted all their options.

This plan provides cash directly to families to help with food, rent, medicine and children’s needs. The benefits are:

  • Freedom of choice to adjust spending where needed most
  • Children are not taken out of school to work or beg
  • Returns autonomy and dignity to those who until recently were just like us – living productive, normal lives
  • Better integration since they spend the money in the host communities and improve the local economy

The best part is that there are no overhead or administrative fees.  Out of every dollar contributed, 97 cents goes directly to the refugees.  (The other 3 cents pays for bank fees and the cost of the most up to date iris-scanning card so that only the family that gets the card can access the cash.)

To apply for the card, families call the UN Helpline, a home visit is conducted and those who meet the criteria open a bank account.  The UNHCR deposits a set amount each month and the recipients withdraw cash from an ATM. The entire process takes less than 30 days and the money arrives within 4 days of eligibility being confirmed, so assistance is provided very quickly.

The fourteen members who attended our AGM last night were in favour of taking this plan to the membership.  We propose to sponsor a family of 6 in Jordan for one year by paying $169 per month (total for a year $2028).  This will not reduce our bank balance by much and will serve our mandate of sponsoring refugees (even though they will not be coming to our community).

The response from members hearing of the proposal has thus far been very supportive. If you have comments or questions, please leave them below!