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 Blended Refugee Sponsorship Program Resumes
  First Presbyterian Church, in part- nership with a local community group, sponsored a young Somali woman through the BVOR program in 2019 as a “Woman at Risk.” FPC and the group are now privately sponsoring the woman’s husband and daughter, who are in Uganda.
By Marianne Emig Carr, minister at First Presbyterian Church in Brockville, Ont.
The current news cycle has been dominated with accounts of Ukrainians coming to Canada, with people ready and willing to host and help them settle here. But there are millions of refugees from other parts of the world who are also in need of protec- tion in Canada, and, after a two- year hiatus due to COVID-19, the BVOR sponsorship program is already helping the most vulner- able of these refugees find hope and safety in Canada.
The BVOR (Blended Visa Of-
fice-Referred) Program, created in 2012, matches private spon- sorship groups with refugees who have been referred for resettle- ment in Canada by organizations, like the United Nations High Com- missioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These refugees have been identi- fied as being in particularly pre- carious situations that require ur- gent attention. Unique features of the BVOR sponsorship program, as opposed to private sponsor- ship of named refugees, include: • Sponsors provide settlement
assistance in the form of so- cial, emotional and community orientation, while financial sup- port for the refugees is shared by the sponsors and the gov- ernment. The government will provide up to six months of fi- nancial support, thereby reduc- ing the financial burden for the sponsorship group.
• Refugees have been pre- screened and are “travel- ready” (typically arriving in Canada within 1 to 4 months after the sponsorship has been approved). Private sponsor- ships, meanwhile, can take up to 24 months or more before the refugees arrive.
• Sponsorship groups choose from a list of refugee profiles maintained by the Refugee
Sponsorship Training Program
• Sponsors are not able to name
specific refugee cases under
the BVOR program.
• BVOR cases typically include
“Women at Risk,” LGBTQI+ refugees, and refugees from countries such as Syria, Af- ghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
My congregation (First Pres- byterian Church in Brockville, Ont.) has been active in sponsor- ing refugees through the BVOR program since 2016, when we welcomed a Syrian family of 10 (at the height of the Syrian airlift). Subsequently, in partnership with members of the community, First Church Brockville sponsored two Syrian Women at Risk (plus chil- dren), a Somali Woman at Risk and a Ugandan LGBTQ+ refugee. Most recently, another Syrian family of 11 (who have relatives in Brockville) arrived in October 2021. And First Presbyterian is not the only sponsorship group in our community—several church- es and community groups have helped to sponsor and settle al- most 20 refugee families through the BVOR program.
Challenges in settling BVOR refugees include:
Open Arms Brockville, a sponsorship group consisting of four local churches (including First Brockville), sponsored two Syrian “Women at Risk,” along with their children, to Brockville in 2018.
 If you are interested in BVOR sponsorship, please contact the PCC Refugee Team at sponsorship@ or check the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program website at
• BVOR refugees’ education and language levels are usually lower than those in “named” sponsorships, which makes settlement services (such as ESL) even more important.
• Their vulnerability frequently makes them more prone to trauma and stress. Mental health supports are often cru- cial in helping refugees settle into Canadian life.
•The information in BVOR profiles is sometimes out of date. We have had two situa- tions where refugees had been forced to leave spouses (and
in one case, a child) behind because they had not been in- cluded in the original profiles. This resulted in having to un- dertake private sponsorship to reunite these families.
But the joy of welcoming these newcomers to Canada far out- weighs any difficulties. While some of the BVOR-sponsored ref- ugees have moved from Brockville to larger cities to be closer to rela- tives,mosthavestayed,becoming vital members of our community. Refugee sponsorship is truly a chance to make a difference, for someone else—and for yourself!
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