It’s a year-long commitment to privately sponsor a Syrian refugee family in Canada, where sponsorship includes funding and helping the family navigate Canadian culture and society. Sponsors assist newcomers with daily tasks of living, including grocery shopping, banking, getting jobs, learning English, and ferrying families to appointments and activities. In the fourth and final installment of Refugees Welcome — The New York Times’ year-long series on Syrian refugees in Canada — Jodi Kantor and Catrin Einhorn profile the Hajj family and members of their sponsorship group, reporting on what happens at month 13 — the point at which the sponsorship agreement officially ends.
Still, with the deadline nearing, the Hajj sponsors faced uncomfortable, nagging questions: Were they doing too much for the Syrian family? Should they stand back and stop acting as chauffeurs, planners and all-around fixers? Were they willing to let the family make mistakes? Even if they wanted to stop helping, would they be able to?
The sponsors, mostly retirees, had the time to help, and they thrived on their shared sense of mission. They wanted so much for the Hajjes: not just the basics, like language and literacy, but for them to participate in the mainstream of Canadian life. They could not bear the thought of the family becoming isolated, the parents marginalized, the children missing out on activities their own children had taken for granted.
One morning in February, Moutayam’s school bus failed to appear, so the boy dialed one sponsor after another until he got Ms. Karas, who rushed right over instead of letting his mother figure it out. She feared the boy would miss a day of school if she did not step in.
“The dependency comes from both sides,” said Sam Nammoura, a refugee advocate who observed similar situations in Calgary, Alberta, where he served as a liaison between sponsors and Syrians. “The newcomers fear taking risks, and the minute they take a risk, the sponsor thinks, ‘They don’t speak English, I will help them,’” he said.
Across the country, as Month 13 turned into Months 14 and 15, the early results of private sponsorship of Syrians looked a lot like Mr. Hajj’s progress — still tentative, but showing forward motion. According to early government figures, about half of privately sponsored adults were working full or part time.
As a group, they were outpacing the thousands more refugees who did not have sponsors and were being resettled by the government — only about 10 percent of them had jobs (on the whole, they were less educated and had higher rates of serious health problems and other needs). Previous refugees to Canada over the past decade — a mix of Iraqis, Afghans, Colombians, Eritreans and more — had followed the same pattern, with privately sponsored refugees more likely to be employed after a year at similar rates.