This article appeared on the Globe Advisor and was published on September 14, 2015

Ryerson University’s Lifeline Syria Challenge announced this week that it is more than doubling its target for bringing Syrian refugees to Canada. Its initial goal, announced July 20, 2015, was to sponsor 11 families or 44 refugees. The new target is 25 families or 100 people. This represents 10 per cent of the target established by the citizen-led Lifeline Syria which seeks to arrange private sponsorship of 1,000 people in the GTA over the next two years.

“The image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi was a turning point,” said Wendy Cukier, executive lead, Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge, and vice-president, research and innovation, Ryerson. “We have been flooded with offers to help: new sponsors, new donors and new volunteers.

“The Ryerson community is committed to doing all it can to address what has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Students, alumni, faculty, administrators and partners of the university are stepping up. This initiative aligns with our mission to meet societal needs, our focus on city building and diversity, and our commitment to providing meaningful experiential learning for the next generation of leaders and changemakers.”

Ryerson responds
To date, more than 240 student, faculty and staff volunteers have become involved in the initiative and with additional public support have raised more than $270,000. Nearly half of these supporters have joined the challenge over the last week.

To sign up as a volunteer or to donate, visit Ryerson’s group of volunteers, made up mostly of students, have already jumped into action by: curating important information for refugees who will settle in the GTA; translating materials into Arabic; researching housing options for incoming families; planning a campus food drive; and planning additional fundraisers.

Some volunteers are joining sponsorship groups and others are organized around themes according to their areas of expertise and the needs of refugees: banking; health and wellness; language; general support for resettling in Toronto; citizen engagement; and spiritual support.

Additionally, students from the Immigration and Settlement Studies program have completed placements with Lifeline Syria. Ryerson’s Lifeline Syria Challenge is also looking to expand its program to accept other Ryerson program placement students and opportunities to provide experiential learning opportunities for student changemakers.

Ryerson sponsors
Along with President Sheldon Levy, the Ryerson University Lifeline Syria Challenge sponsor team leaders include:

  • Ryerson University Provost and Vice President Academic Mohamed Lachemi;
  • Vice-President, Research and Innovation Wendy Cukier;
  • Ryerson University alumna, Valerie Pringle, Radio and Television Arts, ’74;
  • Ratna Omidvar, executive director and professor, Global Diversity Exchange, Ted Rogers School of Management and chair, Lifeline Syria;
  • Christina Sass-Kortsak, Ryerson assistant vice-president, Human Resources;
  • Steven Murphy, dean, Ted Rogers School of Management;
  • Marsha McEachrane Mikhail, director, Ryerson International and international liaison officer;
  • Marion MacKenzie, CEO GCI Group and special advisor to Ryerson University, Office of Vice-President, Research and Innovation;
  • Anver Salojee, professor, Department of Politics and Public Administration;
  • Michael Adams, president, Environics Group;
  • and co-leader Thuy Nguyen, who came to Canada as a Vietnam refugee in 1975.

Each sponsor team leader has personally committed $5,000 toward the estimated $27,000 needed to support and settle a family for one year. Leaders and their team members must complete an application for sponsorship and assume responsibility for the family for a year. They are also working with volunteers to help raise funds and ensure refugee families have the support they need to succeed including: finding housing, jobs, financial services, education and most of all welcoming them to Canada.

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