(London Interfaith Refugee Sponsorship Alliance)
LIRSA is a group of churches who sponsor and support individuals and families who have been identified as refugees according to the United Nations Geneva Convention and have been approved as refugee claimants through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
LIRSA was formed in 1996 and had six members: Siloam, Metropolitan and First-St. Andrew’s United Churches; St. Jude’s and St. Luke’s Anglican Churches; and St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church. In 2017, the church members are: Siloam, Riverside and Colborne St. United Churches; St. George’s and St. Jude’s Anglican Churches.
The work of LIRSA is humanitarian, non-sectarian, and apolitical. The alliance welcomes support from all groups and individuals who share the goal of helping to relieve some of the suffering of people forced to flee their countries, and helping new Canadians make a successful transition to a stable, productive life in Canada.
Sponsorship applications that LIRSA considers may be: Joint Assistance Sponsorships (JAS) with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; private sponsorships; or family-linked sponsorships. Once LIRSA has agreed to help, it is LIRSA’s responsibility to provide social and emotional support, advocacy and community liaison in areas such as health, education and employment. In the case of a private sponsorship, LIRSA is also responsible for the financial support of the refugee(s) for one year.
Siloam United Church administers the bank account for funds received and dispenses funds as directed by the chair/members. Monies received are deposited in a dedicated bank account. While some churches contribute a specified amount each year, other church members give an amount when LIRSA welcomes a new family into the city. Participation in the group is not contingent on being able to contribute financially.
LIRSA is also associated with the Westminster College Foundation. This Foundation has very generously granted LIRSA monies to help with medical, dental and vital services that are not covered by government assistance for London and area refugee families. We are indebted to this organization for their help.
In February of 2016, a Syrian family of 6 was sponsored by LIRSA. This family is adapting extremely well to their new life in Canada. Prior to that sponsorship, LIRSA helped a family of three come to London from Eritrea via Sudan. That sponsorship ended in June of 2016 and we are extremely pleased that the father in that family is now employed full-time in St. Marys while his wife continues her education with ESL classes.
The Chair of LIRSA is Margaret (Marel) Fielding representing St. George’s Anglican Church; the Treasurer is Peggy Rivard, representing Siloam United Church.
Every second, refugees somewhere in the world are fleeing from their homes and cities seeking safety. Their plight is hard for many of us to imagine. They leave because of fear or famine, but always with hope.