Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 19, 1999
Parishes open arms to Kosovo refugees
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholic parishes in the Edmonton Archdiocese have responded generously to the call for sponsorship of refugees from Kosovo.
Close to 200 refugees have already arrived in Edmonton and many are being helped by Catholics who took training on how to help meet their needs.
Out of 5,000 refugees accepted by Canada, about 550 are expected to settle in Alberta, with more than 300 settling in Edmonton and 50 in Red Deer.
Members from about a dozen Catholic parishes and religious communities have received sponsorship training by Catholic Social Services. They are part of a total of 350 individuals from 68 different city groups that participated in training sessions.
Across Canada, more than 100 Catholic parishes are participating in the program, including 20 in Alberta.
Sponsors provide emotional support and practical help, from picking refugees up at the airport, to taking them shopping to helping them find schools.
"They help the refugees to become established here, to have friends in the city and to live and work in the society," said Alice Colak, CSS vice president of community and immigration service.
In addition to training sponsors, Catholic Social Services also coordinates the matching of sponsors with refugees, finds suitable accommodation for refugees in advance of their arrival, and hires and trains Albanian-speaking interpreters.
Among those parishes sponsoring refugees are St. Thomas More, St. Michael's Resurrection, Good Shepherd, St. Agnes, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sherwood Park and Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer. The Light of Christ group at Newman Theological College is also sponsoring refugees.
The federal government provides refugees with income support for up to 24 months. Once in Edmonton, the refugees have the following three options:
. Return to Kosovo immediately.
. Reserve their decision for later on the understanding the federal government can repatriate them if they so wish within 24 months of their arrival.
. Decide to make Canada their new permanent home.
Some Kosovo refugees have already decided to return. In Edmonton, most seem to be reserving this decision for later, said Colak.