01 Apr 2.2 Forming a Group
Users of this online learning resource are responsible for connecting with government and local organizations to ensure access to relevant information on refugee sponsorship in their community.
Even if it is not required in your particular context, forming a sponsorship group is always encouraged, as you will have opportunities to share ideas and strategies on sponsoring refugees and to delegate sponsorship responsibilities. You are more likely to be successful in supporting the integration of refugee newcomers through sponsorship by joining forces with other members of your community. You may wish to consider the factors below in determining your group composition.
1. Number of sponsored refugees
You can assess your group composition needs based on the number of persons you will sponsor and the estimated level of support required for different needs (e.g. health, daycare, school and employment).
2. Number of sponsorship group members
There is no perfect group size; larger groups can share settlement responsibilities between more people while smaller groups can make group coordination easier.
3. Location/proximity to sponsored refugees’ resettlement community
Living in reasonably close proximity to where the refugee newcomers will live is highly beneficial, as you and group members will be more easily positioned to support them more efficiently and effectively. What is considered a reasonable distance will vary for each sponsorship.
The more time your group members can contribute, the more effective the group is likely to be in resettling refugee newcomers. That said, limited availability should not discourage you or others from sponsoring. The members in your group with more limited availability might consider pairing with other members to carry out sponsorship tasks. A few elements to consider:
- Settlement tasks like housing and orientation require a high level of commitment only at certain times of the sponsorship period.
- Some settlement tasks will happen predictably at certain times of the day such as school and appointments; these tasks may be easier to coordinate.
- Having someone with day time availability is useful for emergencies and appointments that can only occur during business hours.
5. Roles and contributions of each group member
Some members of your group may prefer to focus on specific settlement tasks. They may also have useful skills for certain settlement tasks (e.g. speak the relevant language, have large social network to do fundraising). Learning about each potential group member’s interests, experiences, and skills helps to ensure they’ll contribute effectively to the sponsorship. Your group members’ roles and contributions may change over time depending on the sponsorship needs.
6. Group’s capacity to communicate and collaborate through sponsorship challenges
It is beneficial for you to work with people who are open to ongoing communication and collaboration. The needs of people you are sponsoring may change unpredictably; for example, if a refugee newcomer trusts and relies on a particular group member for certain tasks such as helping with medical care and housing, how will the group adapt without overwhelming that particular member with sponsorship tasks? If the group sponsors a married couple that separates during the sponsorship period, would the group be able to support two separate households?
You do not need to have the answers to questions like these at any specific moment. Rather, having group members who are willing to work collaboratively and maintain good communication throughout the sponsorship is important.
7. The length of the sponsorship period
Your country may require groups to provide certain financial support and settlement tasks for a specified duration of time, which may factor into a group member’s capacity.
8. Date of the sponsored refugees’ arrival
The date of the refugee newcomer’s arrival may inform each member’s responsibilities based on their capacity at that time. It may also impact the ways in which your group contributes – finding seasonal clothing, for example.
9. Commitment and responsibility
Make sure your group members fully understand the collective and individual responsibility they are undertaking by joining the sponsorship group.
Finding Group Members
How do we go about finding others to be part of a group?
Back in 1979, when citizens in Ottawa, Canada mobilized to sponsor refugees in Southeast Asia, a local newspaper printed a sponsorship interest form on its front page asking individuals interested in sponsorship to fill in this form and mail it in. The newspaper, in turn, informed the interested individuals of who else in their neighborhood was interested so that they could form a sponsorship group.
Fast forward to today, and methods of community organization have significantly advanced. The following are some ideas for outreach to establish your group:
You can use social media to inform others that you are looking for sponsorship group members to welcome refugees in your community.
Word of mouth
You may want to spread the word to others to gauge their interest in sponsoring refugees together. This can be through friends, families, religious institutions, places of employment, sports clubs, universities, etc.
Local agencies, organizations, or institutions may organize information sessions that you can attend to learn about sponsorship and meet others in your community who are interested in sponsorship.
You may wish to set up a table at a local farmer’s market, library, or café. At the table, you can chat with other community members about refugee issues, show videos about the journeys of refugees, and gauge interest in donating funds or forming a sponsorship group. For more examples like this, explore this resource from Amnesty International.
Note: If individuals know who they are going to sponsor, then it is important to be mindful of their privacy when looking for group members. Please refer back to privacy and confidentiality in the Guiding Principles.
Examples of other creative approaches
For example, a person created little notes attached to tea bags, inviting neighbours to a sponsorship learning session over tea. They went door to door and left these invitations in people’s mailboxes. Those who attended the session ended up forming a sponsorship group.
In another example, a businessman of a large appliances company engaged his employees in sponsoring over 60 refugee families. The staff was divided into different committees that provided settlement support, and the newcomers’ first jobs in Canada were at his appliance company.
University students in Canada partner with an organization called World University Service of Canada (WUSC) to sponsor resettled refugees pursuing post-secondary education.
A group of “metal heads” (individuals who love heavy metal music) decided to get together with friends and family to sponsor a Syrian family. One group member has described the sponsorship as the “most metal thing I’ve ever done.”
For further information about approaches to finding a group, click here.
Making an Application
- Your government may require you to meet certain eligibility criteria to sponsor refugees.
- These criteria may include a certain number of group members, providing settlement funds, and support such as the tasks in Stage 3.
- You and the group members may also be required to fill out and submit application forms, along with supporting documentation, for vetting by a government agency.
Please contact your government and local organizations in your community for further information on the application process.
See “How to get involved?”
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Which three of these considerations are also important when choosing group members?CorrectIncorrect