The family of 10 Syrian refugees that a Whitehorse group is bringing to the Yukon will actually be a family of 11.
Kirsten Bradley, acting director of Yukon Cares, said the family welcomed a new baby 16 months ago. The baby wasn’t included in the family’s original refugee paperwork. She suspects that’s why they didn’t arrive in Whitehorse before Christmas. The family now has to complete paperwork for the new baby, and then undergo health and safety checks before travelling to Canada from Beirut, Lebanon.
But Bradley said she’s still hopeful the family will be here by the end of January. The nine children range in age from 18 months to 21 years.
“We’re really excited. We’re just really excited to welcome them to the community.”
Bradley said Yukon Cares is “very close” to meeting its fundraising goal. She said the family requires $97,000 in total for its first year in Canada. Yukon Cares has currently raised $57,000, and the Yukon government has promised to contribute another $18,500. The federal government will also be contributing money, though the exact amount has yet to be determined.
Though $97,000 sounds like a lot, Bradley said, that money has to cover all of the family’s expenses, including rent, utilities, transportation and food.
“All of their living costs come out of that,” she said. “That’s something I think a lot of people don’t realize.”
Bradley said the group has a rental house ready for the family, and has received “massive amounts of donations of furniture and clothing.”
Meanwhile, a second group planning to sponsor another family has surpassed its fundraising goal.
Hillary Gladish, with the Riverdale Baptist Church, said the church plans to privately sponsor a refugee family through a partnership with the Canadian Baptists of Western Canada. She said her group has already been paired with a family of four that includes two young children.
“The father is educated and he speaks a bit of English,” she said.
Gladish said community members have donated $18,500 to the cause, which the Yukon government has promised to match. Yukon Cares has also provided $15,000 to help get the group started. That adds up to more than $50,000, well above the $30,000 federal requirement to sponsor a small family.
“We thought because we live in the North, and that cost of living is a little bit higher, that it would be reasonable for us to aim for about $50,000.”
Gladish said the group is currently waiting for the paperwork to be processed by the United Nations refugee agency. The family could be here within the next one to four months, but she said “nothing is definite” at this point.
“Our experience so far in the process is that it’s slow. There are a lot of layers that you have to go through. It seems easy, but it’s definitely a lot of hurry up and wait.”
Gladish said she’d like to see a second family come to the Yukon so that the families can support each other and share similar experiences.
“I think that resettlement to a new country and creating a new life here, it’s going to be pretty difficult. In Whitehorse, we don’t have a lot of the resources that a larger city centre would have.”
She hopes the two families will help each other adapt to the cold weather, the new language, and everyday life in a different culture.
For the moment, Gladish’s group is not actively fundraising. Right now, she’s focused on organizing housing and material goods for the family.
She said she’s had a couple of people offer apartments or homes for the family. But she’s still looking for several items, including a kitchen table and chairs, dish sets and cutlery, kitchen pots, linens and towels.
However, the group has limited storage space at the moment, so she’s asking people just to let the group know what they’re able to donate when the time comes.
“We do have some space to be able to store these things, but if people are able to hold onto it… then that’s probably also very helpful.”
She said people who want to donate material goods should contact the church administration.
Bradley said another group is planning to sponsor a third family through Yukon Cares. Yukon Cares is still fundraising for all three families.
She said the multicultural centre is also looking for volunteers to teach English or to participate in casual conversation classes with the families once they arrive.
Yukon College also has plans to sponsor a Syrian student refugee to attend the Whitehorse campus.
Contact Maura Forrest at