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As the Canadian population continues to welcome Syrian refugees into the country, assistance from the Canadian community is needed to aid the Syrian immigrants adjust to their new homes and to live comfortably within their new borders. Having left their homes, families, and belongings behind, many refugees are in need of housing, furniture, food and clothing among other necessities.

Faizan Ashraf has established a new project in Hamilton to do just that. The 20 for 20 project provides many services to refugees, from English language training to information about the labour workforce and location-based orientation. Ashraf was inspired to create this initiative after noticing great efforts made in other parts of Canada to help in the resettlement of refugees. Ashraf began searching for the different ways that he could get involved in the mobilization of resources to make a difference for refugees and modeled 20 for 20 after similar initiatives at Ryerson and Lifeline Syria in Toronto.

The 20 for 20 project will work with sponsors from the community. These local sponsors include both individuals and small businesses, who will financially support refugee families throughout their first year in Canada, while 20 for 20 volunteers will take the lead on helping refugee families settle into their new daily lives.

The 20 for 20 project provides many services to refugees, from English language training to information about the labour workforce and loacation-based orientation.

Despite the title, Ashraf assured that the project is not limited to 20 families. “Twenty families was the initial goal that IWC had established just before we formed our partnership. We decided to continue with the same goal allowing for the flexibility of growth in the future based on our progress. From an operational perspective, working towards bringing 20 refugee families through the community sponsorship model is ideal. It challenges us without straining our resources or putting undue pressure on the volunteer pool,” he explained.

The project has already helped several families. According to Hayley Welham, the spokesperson for the initiative, all the families identified by the IWC are currently benefitting from the project. “The Immigrants Working Centre has secured a group of five sponsors for several refugee families. Once their resettlement applications have been completed, they will be submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada for approval,” she said.

Local businesses have been urged to get involved in the project by donating money to help support the families’ financial needs or by choosing to sponsor a family instead. The Hamilton public can also volunteer with the initiatives. Volunteers can help teach English as a second language at a registered agency to the refugees, join a group with five other sponsors and help support a family themselves, and donate clothing and household items to the Salvation Army to be given out to the families. More information about this project and how others can contribute is available on the 20 for 20 project’s website.

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