I have been waiting for my travel to Canada for quite a while. Planning diaries, organising meetings, researching where to stay whilst in Canada, how to travel around in this big country, planning fall-back positions in case things go as not planned. Sometimes an email or emails were not enough. Needed to pick up that phone to firm meetings and get better deals. Yes, it was all to travel and meet folks of different experiences, expertise and stories about the Refugee Sponsorship in Canada. What made the scheme a success? Why are those ranging from a small group to big law firms, schools, universities, faith institutions and companies get involved in this? What keeps some of those involved in this for decades motivated? Why them? From Toronto to Guelph, Windsor to Ottawa, Winnipeg to Calgary and Vancouver there are lots of stories to hear and share in the long run.
5th June 2018
It all started on June 5. Finally, the long-awaited day arrived and I was at Gatwick Airport early in the morning. To make things even more exciting, I was joined by my colleague Jonathan Cox, Deputy Director of Citizens UK, who was travelling to Canada as a speaker at the International Refugee Rights Conference, where I would take part as a Churchill Fellow. Great coincidence!
The journey to Toronto was long, but I had lots of energy to cope with as I was excited and have been waiting for this day for months. Once I arrived there, it didn’t take me long to find my ways and adjust to situations in Toronto, which undoubtedly is an international city.
Meeting with Deborah Littman, a veteran community organiser was in the agenda. Stories of organising from London to Vancouver and Toronto - ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things. The stories were simply fascinating. In organising, there is nothing called small win. A win is a win. A win can happen only when we sit around the table for negotiations with those who have power. That is what Deborah and her fellow colleagues do. Organise to build power and negotiate to win.
The second on the agenda was meeting with Louis Century of Goldblatt Partners LLP based in Downtown Toronto. This is one of the most inspirational meetings I have had so far. The law firm was able to sponsor a Syrian family and resettle them in Toronto. One of the questions I raise to Louis was, ‘why should businesses engage in refugee sponsorship?’. The answer was:- “Refugee Sponsorship gives businesses opportunity to show leadership and can bring sense of pride within the organisation”. Very powerful message.
The Churchill Fellowship travel continues across Canada. Lots of heart moving stories to share in the coming days and weeks. Once thing for sure, Canada is a truly welcoming country. That is what I have seen be in a big city like Toronto or small town like Arborg in Manitoba.
Even more inspired. All happens because of the Churchill Fellowship. Kudos to all!