Local immigration ‘advocates’ will gather for community event

March 31 gathering will go a long way toward developing understanding in the community, say organizers

Stephanie Ferrera is coordinator of the Sarnia-Lambton Local Immigration Partnership, which is hosting an event on March 31 at the Lambton College Event Centre.

The topic of immigration seems to carry its own set of preconceptions (or misconceptions). Add the word “refugee” and it may become even more complex.

A gathering of those who are both involved and potentially interested in the issues those topics encompass is now planned for March 31 at the Lambton College Event Centre.

“A Refugee Story,” which is open to anyone with an interest in the issue, may help to dispel misconceptions while raising the level of understanding and even empowerment around what various groups in Lambton County are seeking to accomplish, says Stephanie Ferrera, project coordinator at the Sarnia-Lambton Local Immigration Partnership, which is among several organizations sponsoring the all-morning event.

“There is a lot of work going on right now,” says Ferrera, referring to the more than 15 families that are being privately sponsored by community and faith groups throughout the County.

The no-cost event, which begins with registration at 8:30 a.m. on March 31, includes a continental breakfast followed by comments from a representative of the Diocese of London, which is working with the Federal Government to support refugees coming to Canada. The group is assessing sponsorship requests, assisting with the application process for permanent residence in Canada, and aiding sponsored refugees in the settlement and integration process.

Anyone interested in attending is asked to e-mail Ferrera or call (519) 344-2062, extension 2161.

There will also be a presentation by a representative from the Lambton Refugee Sponsor Network, the group that is helping to coordinate the families that are being privately sponsored throughout Lambton County, says Ferrera.

Attendees will also learn about what Sarnia-Lambton offers when it comes to settlement programs that promote language learning, provide banking and financial services and offer employment counselling and social supports.

Notably, there will also be remarks from one of the refugee families that is being settled in the area. There are currently two families that have arrived with up to 20 more expected within the next year, says Ferrera, who adds that a significant amount of work is being done to welcome the refugee families, efforts that serve to highlight how groups have come together in innovative and even heart-warming ways.

“Many of the people who are joining are community are well-educated, entrepreneurial and very likely to strengthen our community,” she says. “What’s needed is a sense of how we can work collectively to connect the community with these families. These are real people, with children in our schools and ready and willing to become integrated into the community. This is a real opportunity for the community to demonstrate how well we are coming together.”

The event, which wraps up with a networking lunch that concludes at 1 p.m., is also sponsored by YMCA Settlement Services.

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