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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.


Greetings from old and new friends.

On Wednesday, Aug. 25th, 2015, Ruta Zakarias and her two sons Eyobed and Yonathan arrived at the Castlegar airport from Cairo, where they had been living for a year and a half, after escaping from Eritrea. The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees sponsored the single mother with help from many local donors.


In the three years since she arrived, Ruta has become a real Rosslander, coping with snow and cold while her kids have learned to cross country ski, skate and downhill.  She has been working to earn her high school diploma equivalency and master English while her boys have been attending RSS in kindergarten and grade one.  Her goal is to become a care aide.


Late in 2017, the family was reunited with Gidewen Melake, the boys’ father and Ruta’s husband.  He had been living in Uganda with relatives when he was able to locate Ruta and ask if it was possible to come to Canada to join his family.  It took some time and a lot of paperwork, but eventually the West Kootenay Friends were able to make it happen. Gidewen had hoped to get a job in Rossland, but when this didn’t happen, he decided to try the Lower Mainland, where members of the Eritrean community in that area offered to help him find work.


He has now rented an apartment near a school and the family is ready to reunite once more in Burnaby, near the Christian Orthodox Church and the Eritrean community that has been helping Gidewen get settled.  On Saturday, March 17th, Ruta and her boys will board a bus and head for their new home.  Thanks to the generosity of Rob LeRose of Home Goods, their possessions will follow in a truck.


While the members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees will miss Ruta, Yonathan and Eyobed, we wish them well in the next phase of their lives in Canada. I know that Ruta would like to thank everyone who has made her family feel welcome. She has received incredible support and encouragement from the local community in so many ways.


The WKFoR are still involved in supporting the applications of three individuals who are in the process of obtaining permission to come to Canada as refugees. Bawi Vum, in Kuala Lumpur and Amr and Saad Zwayne, in Istanbul, are awaiting approval and have begun the interview stage – which is a positive step.



Photo credit: Dave Cornelius

On Tuesday evening, January 31st, Rossland’s Harry LeFevre Square was filled with light from the many candles held in mittened hands by Rosslanders who turned out in the cold to show solidarity with Muslims everywhere and all others fleeing persecution, throughout the world. In the wake of the Quebec massacre and the US ban on travel by citizens of seven Muslim countries, members of the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees organized the vigil to give the community an opportunity to come together and show their feelings. Mayor Kathy Moore welcomed the crowd and spoke about the need for peace and understanding throughout the world to combat the hatred and violence that seem to lurk everywhere – even in peaceful Canada.

Prominent in the crowd were the San-Latt family, Aung Ko Ko, Lun Lun and their two children Samuel and David – Rossland’s first sponsored family, originally from Burma.  As well, Teysir Misto, father of our newest family (originally from Aleppo, Syria) spoke from the heart about his appreciation for the show of support for his family and the victims of the mosque shooting in Quebec. He made it clear, with the help of translator Hakim Aitami, that he is very happy to have brought his family to Canada. 
After a moment of silence to reflect on the reason for the gathering, Jill Peacock of the WKFoR thanked everyone for attending and invited the crowd to socialize around the bonfire.  Members of the Rossland Light Opera broke into song and people mingled and talked to friends and neighbors before walking home in the clear, cold night.


We are very excited to welcome a new family to Rossland. This is the third family that has settled in Rossland since the group started.

More news via local news outlets:

Rossland News

The Rossland Telegraph


Thank you to Mindful Mountain Yoga for their generous donation of $289 to the WKFoR.

Money and community awareness was raised through their Karma Yoga sessions.

Mindful Mountain Yoga is a warm and welcoming yoga studio in downtown Rossland.  They bring together yoga, mindfulness, and overall wellbeing through their classes and workshops. More information about the studio and their offerings is available on their website
MMY runs $5 Karma Yoga on Friday evenings  from 6-7pm.   Karma Yoga is their way of giving back to our community while making yoga more accessible to the community.  Each month a different local project or group is chosen to receive the donation collected throughout the month. 
You can follow the studio on Facebook (Mindful Mountain Yoga) and on Instagram (@mindfulmountainyoga).


A Fruitvale couple has sponsored Rahaf Zwayne from Syria. Learn about this incredible story here!


Welcome! A long-awaited and eagerly anticipated refugee family landed in Castlegar Tuesday afternoon. Zing Men and Tha Tin and their adorable baby have come from Burma (Myanmar) via the Canadian immigration offices in Singapore after spending more than four years in Malaysia. Lun Lun Sun, also a Burmese refugee who arrived to Rossland in 2014, sponsored by WKFoR, was on hand to greet them! Lun Lun will have an incredible opportunity to share what she has learned about living in the Kootenays (and Canada) over the last two years.

More on this story here!



Welcome Rahaf to Canada!

The West Kootenay Friends of Refugees, and especially Melva and Ian Scott of Fruitvale, were thrilled to welcome Rahaf Zwayne to Canada. The Scotts are privately sponsoring Rahaf who is originally from Syria and most recently Istanbul, Turkey.  The couple met Rahaf while they were travelling in Turkey and have been in almost daily contact with her via Skype ever since.

The WKFoR would like to thank all our donors, especially those who attended a concert in February held to assist the Scotts with this sponsorship. Rahaf will be a real asset to the group when the Abdin family arrives (soon, we hope), since she speaks perfect English as well as Arabic.

Five days after her arrival, she spoke at a student symposium in Nelson May 17th on refugees and climate change. Her heartfelt thanks and experience are shared in this short clip: Rahaf speech



This is a free event however proceeds from donations will be generously donated to the West Kootenay Friends of Refugees.

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)