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It’s been a while since an updated was posted so here is some news from the coordinators!


Thanks to a group in Ottawa, interested refugee organizations have been offered the opportunity to sponsor refugees without any fundraising.  This would be perfect for us, since we may be spending more on the Zwayne family than we had planned.

We have spoken to someone in Ottawa and all we have to do is submit a letter explaining who we are and then wait to see if we are accepted. If that happens, we apply for a BVOR case, wait for the group to confirm the money, confirm the application with IRCC and wait for it to be processed.

Here are the details:

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, August 7, 2018

The University of Ottawa Refugee Crossroads and the Shapiro Foundation, in collaboration with Jewish Family Services Ottawa, are pleased to announce the creation of a new fund to facilitate the sponsorship of up to 1,000 refugees identified by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

For a limited period of time, eligible Canadian groups will see the cost of sponsoring a refugee under the Joint Visa Refugee Program (BVOR) program entirely covered by the fund.

With a record 25.4 million refugees displaced by war and persecution, the global refugee crisis is one of the most glaring and devastating challenges of our time. Canadians have consistently demonstrated generosity, compassion and a willingness to resettle some of the most vulnerable people in the world; a commitment that is particularly important as resettlement solutions around the world diminish.

As part of its annual immigration planning, the Government of Canada has approved the files of 1,500 refugees who wish to be resettled in Canada through the VOR Program in 2018. Under this program, UNHCR identifies refugees who want to come to Canada, then the Canadian government and sponsoring groups share the costs of resettlement. As a result of this new fund, the portion of the financial commitment assumed by the sponsors will be fully subsidized by private donors.

All refugees resettled to Canada are subject to a security and judicial check as well as a medical examination. Once in Canada, refugees are welcomed and supported by their sponsorship group for at least one year.

This innovative fund is made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Shapiro Foundation and another major Canadian donor. Start-up funding and resettlement costs related to sponsorship under the BVOR Program will be available to groups applying to the fund by September 17, 2018, or until funds are depleted prior to September 17, 2018.

Refugees sponsored through support from this fund will arrive in Canada by December 31, 2018.

*If we go ahead, we need housing! Please spread the word so we can line this up.


The Misto family has accomplished a lot in the two years they have been here, learning English, finding work, adding to the family (Nawras is now 13 months old) buying a car and making friends in Trail.  Now they have purchased a home and are feeling well established in the community.

Lun Lun San and Ko Ko Latt would like to own a home in Rossland, but at the present time prices are high and they have to establish a credit rating.  However they have been saving and now have their cousin Bawi Vum to help out.  Bawi arrived early in June and started finding odd jobs on his second day in Canada.  He is working on his English and has already established a reputation as a very reliable and industrious worker.  This week he was able to land a full time job with “Brighter Days” a window washing firm, based in Rossland.

Lun Lun has also just taken a job as janitor for the Seven Summits Learning Centre, which will be welcoming students soon. Ko Ko Latt continues full time work at the Flying Steamshovel and is happy to have left the job on the garbage truck behind.

The kids have been taking part in Rossland’s summer camps, skateboard lessons and swim lessons. The family also had a summer holiday at Sue and Rick Greene’s place on Kootenay Lake.

Our last word from Ruta was that she and her family are enjoying life in Burnaby.


When the WKFoR  coordinators first co-signed (with the Scott family) the application for the private sponsorship for Saad and Amr Zwayne, plans were in place for free rental accommodation for a year In Fruitvale. Plans changed, however, and now they are living in Nelson in a furnished apartment costing $1350.00 per month.

Initially, after a couple of fundraising initiatives, WKFoR committed $5000.00 for other settlement costs to pay their rent for August, September and October. We have also covered their travel loan, which amounted to an additional $3155.43. One of our members has donated $500 and a friend of Rahaf’s has committed $50 per month. We have also applied for a one-time grant from the Cathedral Refugee Group in Nelson. (see article below)

After discussing the situation we recommend that our group pay the Zwaynes’ rent for the remainder of the year (until the end of June, 2019) This would take a lot of stress off the family while they look for work, learn more English, and consider their options.

Saad has a resume prepared and is looking for work, initially in a restaurant, although he has many other skills.  Amr has a license to do caricatures and sell art at the Nelson street markets and art displays – and has already made some sales.  He is working on a resume as well.  Both Saad and Amr have mentioned how welcome they have been made to feel in the community. They also have been introduced to the Nelson Food Cupboard where good quality groceries are available free of charge.


The Cathedral Refugee Committee of Nelson has some funds available to donate to another refugee committee in the West Kootenay area. They are accepting applications until Sept. 30/18.

We have submitted a letter asking that they consider our group – since we have a pretty good track record.

Several of the refugee support groups throughout the Kootenays have folded, as people lost interest, felt overwhelmed, or moved on to other things.  We have already received a grant from the group in New Denver, which was used to help Bawi Vum with his resettlement.  We hope we can sustain interest and continue to be an organization that can carry on the work it was set up to do.

Interact refugee pic

Students from the RSS and J.L.Crowe Interact Club met on Wednesday, Feb. 24 with Christine DeMarco, of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees.

Ms DeMarco, who taught several of these students as kindergarteners described  the work of the WKFoR and gave an update on the two families who have been sponsored so far.

The WKFoR is eagerly awaiting the arrival of a Syrian family, who should be flying in to the Trail airport shortly.  The Interact club had placed donation jars in RSS and J.L. Crowe and were pleased to present five hundred and fifty dollars to help with the resettlement of the new refugee family.

Lun Lun San & Aung Ko Ko Latt

Lun Lun San & Aung Ko Ko Latt

In December, 2013, the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees (WKFoR) welcomed Lun Lun San, Aung Ko Ko Latt and their son Samuel to Rossland. Originally from Burma, they had been living in Malaysia where they were selected for sponsorship by a Canadian government program set up to assist refugees. After eighteen months, we are happy to report that things are going well for the San Latt family. In March of last year, the family increased by one with the birth of Michael David, a healthy and happy Canadian baby.

Aung Ko Ko and Lun Lun have been working to learn English with the help of four local teachers and an ESL program in Trail. As well, they have enjoyed trying out their language skills on the Rosslanders they meet at play school, Strong Start and the typical gathering places in town. Aung Ko Ko has found work at two local businesses and is happy to be supporting his family.

Now, thanks to the generosity of Rosslanders, the WKFoR have sufficient funds to begin helping another family come to our community. Our application has been accepted to sponsor an Eritrean single mother, Ruta, with two young sons, Yonathan and Eyobed, ages four and five. Her religion is listed as Christian and she speaks a language called Tigrinya.

Eritrea is a country infamous for horrifying human rights abuses and oppression. Ruta was forced to flee her home country after her husband disappeared. Surviving threats, violence and torture, she was able to make her way to a refugee camp near Cairo, where she is currently awaiting her trip to Canada. To find out more about Eritrea, google the country name and UN probe for a recent report from the United Nations.

Like the San Latts, this family will receive six months of support through a government program before they become financially dependent on the WKFoR. If all goes well, our new family could arrive in about a month, so the pressure is now on to find a suitable location for them to live and plan how to help them make a fresh start. If past experience is any indication, we will be offered many household items and will be keeping a master list so we can track what is needed. No donations of goods will be accepted now, but we will be asking for them when the family’s arrival date is established.

The WKFoR is a very small group of dedicated people with no special expertise, just a belief that we should try to make a difference where we can. Based in Rossland, we are actively seeking new members who can share the responsibility of making this new family welcome in our community. There are dozens of jobs that need to be done, from helping with transportation and shopping to just dropping in for a chat. We would welcome new members from Trail or Warfield.

For further information, and to volunteer, please contact: Jan Micklethwaite, 250-362-5289.

To read more about a UN investigation into the situation in Eritrea google:

photo (16)

In December 2012, students and staff from l’École des Sept-Sommets initiatied a fundraising campaign called « Vide tes poches ! » to help the two Burmese families who will soon be arriving in our community. « Vide tes poches » means empty your pockets, so this is what they did. They collected spare change and emptied the piggy banks!


It was also a good opportunity for students to learn some geography and a little history. Teachers had to answer many questions such as: Where is Myanmar? Where is Malaysia? What are refugee camps? Why is Canada committed to helping refugees?


The students were all very excited to see photos and learn the names of the families who will soon be part of our community. Everyone is looking forward to meeting them!


The younger students did a sorting activity to divide all the coins collected and a few of the older students helped with rolling and counting (Thanks to Alexander and Griffin!). l’École des Sept-Sommets, a small school of 40 students collected $367.01! The school would like to challenge other schools and groups in the community to beat that!

photo (17) photo (15)