Brock group to privately sponsor Syrian refugee family

Thousands of Syrians have died fleeing the Middle Eastern country plagued by war and terrorism. For too many, turning to smugglers and deadly boat crossings on the Mediterranean Sea is the only option for escape.

It’s a grim reality that served as the catalyst for a group of 18 Brock University faculty and staff to come together to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees through Ryerson Lifeline Syria.

“We are providing a legal way for people to flee so they don’t have to risk their lives,” said Ebru Ustundag, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography. “For me, it’s an ethical and political responsibility. This is one of the worst humanitarian crises in decades.”

She said the Brock community stepped up in force when the call went out for help.

“One of the things faculty was very interested in was using our privilege and sponsoring a family,” she said.

The group has raised tens of thousands of dollars to become a private sponsorship group through Lifeline Syria.

They’ve committed to helping the family for at least a year with everything from transportation and housing to translation services and donations.

Members of the group and the wider Brock community have come forward with donations of money, time, household goods, experience, and in-kind contributions, said Jane Helleiner, Professor in the Department of Sociology.

She said the family is expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

When they get here, the family will have a place to stay that is furnished with donated items. As well, the group has already found them a doctor and dentist.

Students have come forward to offer up help with translating and the group is coming up with a plan to meet the rest of the family’s basic needs.

The group hopes other people interested in learning about private sponsorship will be encouraged by what they are doing.

“I’m really hoping this is a model for others. It’s doable. I hope other people are inspired by our work,” Ustundag said, adding the group can be a sounding board for others. “There is so much people can do.”

Jeff Burch, executive director of the Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre, said a number of Brock faculty and staff are volunteering at the centre, to be part of working groups created to meet the needs of the incoming refugees.

“The biggest gap in many communities is private sponsorships,” he said.

It’s a big commitment to sponsor a family but there are supports in place for people interested in helping in that way, he said. The centre offers a wide array of settlement services and sponsorship groups are encouraged to contact them. Burch said financial donations and housing leads are the biggest needs of the centre.

Those interested in donating funds to this sponsorship team can visit and click on “sponsor team leads,” and scroll down to find  “Brock Sponsors Refugees.”

Non-financial forms of support for this sponsorship can be directed to Ebru Ustundag at or call 905-688-5550 ext. 4417.


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