JIAS Toronto, a partner agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, which provides a comprehensive continuum of welcome, settlement and integration services to the thousands of Jewish immigrants who arrive to the GTA each year is, in its capacity as Sponsor Agreement Holder, working with IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada) in a joint initiative to settle Yazidi refugees. Our work is to help these refugees rebuild their lives in safety and with care in Canada.
The Yazidis are a religious minority, living primarily in Iraq and Syria, who have been the victims of a genocide perpetrated by ISIL. The Yazidis speak Kurmanji, a Kurdish dialect and some understand basic Arabic. They practice a little known religion, and have been persecuted for centuries — but most recently, beginning in 2014, they have been the victims of a “forced conversion” campaign being carried out in Northern Iraq that has led to the execution and massacre of thousands of Yazidi civilians, and the abduction and severe abuse of thousands of Yazidi women.
We are seeking volunteers to provide support and practical information around basic life skills for living in Canada, and opportunities to connect more actively with other families and children. Examples of specific tasks for volunteers include practicing basic English, teaching the newcomers how to use York Region transit, accompanying them to appointments, and just being a welcoming presence.
Volunteers must be open, cognizant of the fact that these refugees have suffered significant trauma and aware that, in most cases, they speak little or no English. With openness, patience, and creativity, linguistic and cultural barriers will surely be overcome- as they have been with other refugees supported by the Jewish community. We will address these and other challenges with our volunteers.
We need volunteers with daytime availability and/or flexible schedules who are willing to commit to one year. The Yazidi refugees we are supporting are settling in Richmond Hill, York Region – so we are especially seeking volunteers in York Region. Volunteers in Toronto are very welcome but must be willing to travel back and forth to Richmond Hill. All volunteers will be supported in their efforts by JIAS Toronto staff. For more information, please contact Jodi Block at JIAS Toronto firstname.lastname@example.org.