Immigration Partnership Fund for Syrian Newcomers


In September 2015, when the heartbreaking photo of toddler Alan Kurdi, who had washed up on a Turkish shore, went viral, the world could no longer avert its eyes from the Syrian refugee crisis.

Soon, people across Canada jumped into action, offering to sponsor families, donate goods and raise funds to bring the suffering to safety.

But when it was announced that more than 1,000 government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees would soon be settling in Waterloo Region, local community leaders needed to work quickly. Not only would they have to set up housing, transportation, health care and schooling at lightning speed, their approach still had to be thoughtful and coordinated. 

If they did their jobs well, they would help traumatized families land on their feet and create a sense of hope and long-term belonging within their new community. 

Tara Bedard, Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership manager, knew what was at stake. 

"These are people who have had to leave their homes and their families," she says. "They've given up everything and come to this country with nothing. It's a lot of work for organizations to support people in that situation to really get settled." 

Fortunately, Immigration Partnership knew which organizations to reach out to for assistance and invited The KWCF to handle financial contributions. The Immigration Partnership Fund for Syrian Newcomers launched with a $100 donation, but within days $80,000 worth of donations flooded in. The KWCF also stepped up by establishing a matching program. Between pledges received from Fundholders and the support of The KWCF unrestricted fund, $400,000 was committed for matched donations. The KWCF handled it all and Bedard says she couldn’t have been more relieved.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without The KWCF. There are so many complex layers to organizing something like this,” she says. “Having them on board and wholly embracing this by saying, ‘We are going to support you through the process,’ has made all the difference.”

Lucia Harrison, CEO of the Kitchener Waterloo Multicultural Centre, and a member of the Immigration Partnership Council, says she believes the combined efforts of partners working together will benefit all future refugees too. And, of course, the concerned people of Waterloo Region won’t soon forget their sense of accomplishment when welcoming newcomers to cities they’re proud to share.

"They too have a sense of belonging, a sense of self and of community," she says. "All of those things are important and have come out of this."