Agonizing images of Syrian refugees fleeing the violent civil war have been galvanizing for Canadians. The York University community has been deeply affected by the global refugee crisis and is coming together to assist those fleeing conflict in search of new beginnings amidst what António Guterres, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees calls “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.”
On Sept. 20, 2015, four Toronto area universities announced they were joining forces to partner in the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge to facilitate private sponsorships, raise funds and engage volunteers in a coordinated effort to assist Syrian refugees. York’s participation in this challenge forms one part of York’s broader approach in its Syria Response and Refugee Initiative.
York has an explicit mission and commitment to social justice. This innovative project and partnerships involved embody its motto- “Tentanda Via: The way must be tried.”
Teams from York, Ryerson, OCADU and the University of Toronto have worked to establish the administrative system required to raise and manage the necessary funds ($27,000) to support a Syrian refugee family for up to one year once they have arrived in Canada. This call to action has resulted in a network of hundred of volunteers and will provide unparalleled experiential learning at all four universities.
An initiative that began at Ryerson in July 2015 with a goal of supporting 10 families, together the partner universities have already created over 80 sponsorship teams as of February 2016 to support more than 300 refugees for up to one year- more than seven times the initial goal.
As part of this initiative 10 York teams formed which will carry out 13 sponsorships for a period of one year, totaling 42 refugees by the conclusion of all of the team's sponsorship responsibilities. York's efforts were also supported generously by two fundraising teams and the generosity of the York and wider communities.
This challenge was inspired by the citizen lead group ‘Lifeline Syria’ which had a goal to galvanize and assist citizens and organizations in the GTA to sponsor at least 1,000 Syrian refuges and resettle them in the GTA. Lifeline Syria is inspired by Canada's response to the Indochinese Refugee Movement of 1979, when Canadians successfully resettled 60,000 "Vietnamese boat people", through an initiative called “Operation Lifeline.” The documentation project related to this project was a founding initiative of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, led by founding Director and York Professor Emeritus Howard Adelman, a Champion of the Lifeline Syria Initiative.
We encouraged members of the York and wider community to engage in this effort by volunteering their time, effort and funds to contribute to this important cause. Please visit our social media pages on Facebook ,Twitter and Instagram, and this website to learn more about this initiative's activities and further ways to become engaged in refugee sponsorship and educational efforts.