Tuesday 10 July 2018

My days in Guelph, Ontario - Refugee Sponsorship Changing lives

As someone who enjoys travelling on a train in the United Kingdom, I thought I could easily travel similarly across Canada. That was only a dream in a country as big as Canada is.  In fact, I even sought travel advice from colleagues at the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada office and asked how easily I could jump from train to train whilst travelling from East to the West of Canada. It was good of them to advise me on time so that I could organise my travels in the best possible way – flying more than 5 times across 4-time zones. One thing for sure, Canada is big; it also has many bighearted people.

The first leg of my journey to Canada took me to Ontario. After spending a few days meeting refugee sponsors, attending The International Refugee Rights Conference at York University in Toronto and a good time in the beautiful Niagara Falls, the next step was to travel to Guelph, where I was going to meet one of my inspirations, Jim Estill, CEO of Danby Appliances. In fact, Jim was one of the reasons why I wanted to go back to Canada.  Ever since I saw his interviews about the sponsorship of 200 refugees, I was keen to meet with him and learn from his experiences. Hence as soon as I met with him my question to him was, ‘why are you sponsoring refugees?’. His answer was simple – “I have to save people. I do so in cooperation with others”. Jim continues, “I organise the refugee sponsorship as if it was a business. There are volunteers with roles. They know what is expected of them and deliver accordingly. We have 800 volunteers working with us. For some, it is about saving the world.”

Jim was right and I can testify that he has done an amazing work to save the lives of many and transform their lives. One of the newcomers sponsored by Jim in 2017 is a Syrian called Firas, who now drives Uber. I and my colleague Jonathan had a lucky encounter with Firas as he picked us from our hotel and took us to Danby Office. As soon as we were in his car, we started to chat. Firas was so friendly and started to chat with us and he mentioned that he was sponsored by Jim last year and that he has been studying English, working and now driving Uber thanks to the support from Jim. Firas didn’t stop there. He said, “My wife never spoke English when she came to Canada. She is now at level 6. All because of Jim’s encouragement”. This was so heart-warming. For Jim Estill and his company Danby Appliances -  it is all about doing the right thing. Yes doing the right thing at the right time!

Following the meeting with Jim at Danby Appliances, the next on the diary was a meeting with Linda who has direct experience of welcoming a Syrian family through sponsorship. Linda is proud of the progress of the family they have sponsored though their church. She said, “We had a wonderful experience as a church and the Syrian family is doing extremely well.”

Guelph might not be as big as Toronto or other big cities, but it is globally known for its refugee sponsorship. That is mostly attributed to Jim and his team. Lucky me to have met Jim and other great people like Linda whilst in Guelph. The Churchill fellowship travels continue. Next stop, Windsor!

Churchill Fellowship – life changing investment – glad I did it.

About 6 years ago, I was keen to have a purposeful travel, study, have some good time, come back, reflect, and use my learning to better mys...