It’s becoming known as the little church that could.
And what the St. Francis Anglican Church in Lake Country is doing now, is preparing to help welcome a Syrian family of nine to the Central Okanagan.
The St. Francis Anglican Church—with a congregation that has grown from 13 to about 40 parish members in the past year—has joined with Lutheran and Anglican churches in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Peachland to form LARC, the Lutheran Anglican Refugee Committee, in preparing to bring a Syrian family to the area.
And now LARC knows what family is coming to the Central Okanagan.
Last week the group received notice that their family has been identified and will soon arrive in the area.
And that’s welcome news to Lake Country’s Leora Splett, who together with Paul Martinson and vicar Trevor Fisher, have been the driving force behind the movement in Lake Country.
“Our family has been identified and it’s going to be a family of nine,” said Splett. “It’s a mother and father and five children. The oldest is a 19-year-old boy and the youngest is 14 months old.”
The push to help settle Syrian refugees began at the St. Francis Anglican Church last October, when Fisher urged his congregation to reach out and help. It was all Splett needed to hear and she and Martinson jumped in with both feet, organizing several fundraisers as the congregation began to raise the necessary funds to bring a family to Canada.
By November the group was off and running with a fundraising arm and soon other Lutheran and Anglican Churches had joined together to form LARC.
“We’re really working together as an organized group,” said Splett. “We meet once a week to review what’s happening. We’re offering a welcoming hand for people who need a place to come to and who are desperately impoverished. We need to reach out and embrace them in our community.”
Splett says they don’t know when the family of nine will be arriving except to say it should be soon. And when they do arrive, they will be in good hands.
LARC has established teams of volunteers to help the family get settled in the area when they do arrive. There’s a welcome team that will meet the family at the airport and from there, teams will help in every way you could imagine, from education, transportation, housing and much more.
“We’ve got a settlement team to help them understand their rights and responsibilities and get oriented to Canadian law and culture,” said Splett. “We have an employment team to assist in building a resume and to ascertain their skills and arrange job interviews. We’ve got a finance team to set up a monthly budget and explain PST and GST and Work Safe BC.”
To bring the family into Canada, LARC had to show sufficient funds to help with the transition and the group’s fundraising efforts have been successful as it now has raised $28,000, money that will be matched by the Canadian government. Splett says $18,000 is needed to bring one family and added they do have enough money to show for a second family.
With all of the talk about Syrian refugees—both positive and negative—over the last several months, Splett says she has no qualms about helping out, adding it has been an amazing time as the churches have joined forces to help people that truly need it.
“These people have been in desperate straits for a long time,” she said. “It hasn’t just happened. They are totally displaced. We can’t go into their country and make things better for them. They need our help. If we are going to be a truly loving community that embraces people, then we need to show that. We need to reach out and help these desperate people that need to start new. We were all immigrants from somewhere so why would be close our arms to people that need our help so much?”