Rainbow Refugee

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Announcing the first grant to Rainbow Refugee for 2021

Despite the challenges of fundraising during the global pandemic, RFOH is managing to bring funds in to award grants to our national network of community partners.

This is all thanks to the generous donors and dedicated volunteers working to make it possible.

Rainbow Refugee has just been awarded its first grant of 2021 to a Circle of Hope in Vancouver to support private sponsorship of a queer Iranian family.

This grant of $2500 will be used in resettlement efforts of these individuals once they arrive in Vancouver.

Rainbow Refugee and the Circle of Hope have been raising funds to build a settlement plan. This is a collaborative process that engages MOSAIC as the accredited sponsorship agreement holder, or SAH.

The SAH is required by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to accept private sponsorship applications from co-sponsors like Rainbow Refugee with its Circle of Hope.

MOSAIC is one of our community partners that not only assists Rainbow Refugee with sponsorship applications, but also provides valuable services for resettling LGBT+ newcomers.

If you are curious about privately sponsoring a queer refugee, get in touch with Rainbow Refugee. Consider forming a Circle of Hope with a group of private citizens that are dedicated to assisting with this cause.

There are many integrated components involved in the work. Grants from RFOH alleviate some of the fundraising burden for sponsorship groups whilst also supporting valuable programs like MOSAIC’s I Belong Project.

It all helps to ease the difficult process of relocation and resettlement once individuals arrive in Canada.

Please consider donating to the cause or becoming a volunteer (or both!)

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Volunteer with our Review Subcommittee in 2021

Ever felt like volunteering, but not sure where to begin?

Rainbow Foundation of Hope (RFOH) relies on community support to help us review grant applications from our National Partners.

They are Canadian registered charities leading projects and programs for LGBT+ refugees and newcomers (i.e., SOGIE migrants) through three RFOH funding streams:

Whenever RFOH receives a new application, we draw upon a growing database of community volunteers on our Review Subcommittee to review and evaluate each application.

The process provides transparency and accountability of our grant administration process to volunteers and donors.

Commit whatever time you can. Each application is based purely on your interest and availability. We look for a minimum of two (2) community representatives outside of the RFOH Board of Directors to help with a goal of 50% community representation.

Over 30 volunteers have helped us with the review process to date. Message us at volunteer@foundationofhope.net and we’ll happily add you to our growing list.

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Explaining Private Sponsorship of LGBT+ Refugees in Canada

Did you know that citizens and permanent residents of Canada can sponsor LGBT+ asylum seekers or refugees that qualify for resettlement as newly settled migrants (i.e., newcomers)?

You can apply through the federal Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP). Support for each newcomer is expected over the length of the resettlement (at least one year).

It includes help to find housing, clothing and food, as well as to provide social and emotional support. Private sponsors will also be expected to have the necessary funds to support any sponsored individual(s).

 

This is where RFOH fits in.

 

In fact, the very process is what brought the folks in Vancouver together, first as private sponsors to two gay Syrian refugees. It later led us to create Rainbow Foundation of Hope.

There are a few things you need to know, so this blog post discusses the many ways to privately sponsor LGBT+ refugees in Canada through the PSRP.

Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH)

Sponsorship agreement holders are groups in Canada, often registered charities and faith-based organizations, holding agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees with the support of Canadian citizens as private sponsors.

Rainbow Foundation of Hope awards grants for sponsorship support, which tend to involve SAHs and include private sponsors known as Constituent Groups (CG) working with co-sponsoring organizations like Rainbow Refugee (Vancouver), Capital Rainbow Refuge (Ottawa), and Rainbow Railroad (Toronto) as relevant examples.

As registered Canadian charities, each co-sponsoring organization is directly eligible for grants from RFOH of up to $7,500 per application on behalf of the CG. Eligible applicants for private sponsorship support must demonstrate collaboration through affiliation with Rainbow Refugee and the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership (RRAP). 

Blended Visa Office-Referred Program (BVOR)

The Blended Visa Office-Referred (BVOR) program involves Canadians working as private sponsors with the Government of Canada to support refugees that have been referred by the UNHCR. These individuals tend to be particularly vulnerable and in urgent need of asylum and resettlement.

BVOR applicants hold Refugee status under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). These individuals are otherwise known as “Convention Refugees“.

The definition of grounds for refugee status comes from the 1951 UN Convention signed in Geneva, Switzerland:

 

Persecution is a threat to life or freedom because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

 

The UNHCR identifies the refugees for private sponsorship under the BVOR program. Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia (RRANS) and St. Andrews-Wesley United Church are examples of Canadian organizations actively working to resettle refugees through the BVOR program. 

Community Sponsor (CS)

Community Sponsor is an organization, association, or corporation sponsoring one or more Convention Refugees to come to Canada. The CS similarly must also represent or be aligned with a registered charity to receive and administer FOH grants.

Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program (JAS)

The Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program involves organizations that work as partners with the Government of Canada to resettle refugees with special needs. Refugees coming to Canada through JAS are considered highly vulnerable and tend to require the greatest level of care and support during resettlement.

Rainbow Refugee Assistance Partnership (RRAP)

Only SAHs working with a CG across Canada through Rainbow Refugee in Vancouver are eligible for resettlement assistance under the RRAP. This government program was the initiative of and remains administered by Rainbow Refugee Society in Vancouver.

Rainbow Refugee identifies its Constituent Groups as Circles of Hope.

The RRAP provides government assistance to LGBT+ refugees across Canada for the first three months of resettlement. It also permits LGBT+ refugee sponsorship applications to be reviewed in Canadian visa offices around the world. This includes “safe countries” where SOGIE persecution exists, but would otherwise not accept refugee claims. Finally, it ensures that SAHs have capacity to take on LGBT+ private sponsorships without having to factor them into their annual resettlement quotas.

The RRAP is a valuable mechanism for enabling LGBT+ refugees to escape persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression (i.e., as SOGIE migrants). Rainbow Foundation of Hope supports the efforts of Canadian civil society groups working to ensure the RRAP can remain a regular element of the PSRP in Canada.

Rainbow Coalition for Refugee (RC4R)

In 2019, thanks to extensive efforts by the Rainbow Coalition for Refuge (RC4R) to actively consult the federal government, the RRAP was expanded for another 5 five years with an $800,000 funding commitment. Support from our corporate partnership with TD Bank has also helped to financially backed RC4R consultation efforts with the Government of Canada.

All six of the RC4R founding members have received grants from RFOH.

This is all thanks to donations that have come from Canadians through our grassroots fundraising efforts led by our flagship event known as STRUT. Across Canada, RC4R member organizations include:

Rainbow Refugee in Vancouver
End of the Rainbow in Calgary
Rainbow Railroad and Metropolitan Community Church in Toronto
Capital Rainbow Refuge in Ottawa
Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia in Halifax

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A STRUT through 5 years of giving and 50 years of freedom

Who knew back in the summer of 2014 that STRUT would bring in over a quarter of a million dollars in just five short years? 

Well, we did.

That’s because of the unwavering vision and enthusiasm of Carl Meadows, a champion of the cause for safe migration of LGBT+ refugees. Carl brought a small group of committed citizens together to change the world. 

Sound familiar? It should. Last year FOH made its 4th annual STRUT walk, which coincided with 40 years of celebrating Pride in Vancouver. This year, our 5th STRUT walk coincided with 50 years of decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada and brought in over $50,000. 

It is certainly a great trajectory and FOH’s prospects for growth and expansion are even better with some exciting new partnerships we will be rolling out in the coming months.

STRUT_2019_BKH_8767

One such partnership is with the UNHCR, a global body established to identify and address the worldwide refugee crisis. This year FOH was invited to participate in UNHCR’s global awareness campaign. It was the perfect complement to the funds we raise locally with the collective distance we would walk in solidarity through STRUT.

Along with over $50,000 in funds raised, FOH saw 74 participants walk together in collective total of 119 km this year. Over the past five years, that amounts to 552 participants and 840 km, which can now be added to the 2 Billion Kilometres to Safety campaign.

Funds raised through STRUT will continue to go directly into grants awarded to Canadian charities working to resettle SOGIE migrants, but this was an opportunity for our local grassroots movement to go even further and contribute to a global awareness movement to #StepWithRefugees worldwide.

The fresh injection of donor funds can now be used to support the six grant applications led by our community partners in Vancouver and Toronto. These are currently under review for both LGBT+ refugee private sponsorship support and newcomer community service projects.

The timing was also just right for STRUT this year, falling on the heels of the announcement by the Government of Canada to expand its support for LGBT+ private resettlement efforts. Thanks to the work of the Rainbow Coalition for Refuge , the ongoing consultations that have persisted since 2017 with Global Affairs Canada and IRCC are finally paying off!

Private resettlement support of LGBT+ individuals facing persecution worldwide will involve a five-year extension of the Rainbow Refugee Assistance Program (RRAP) and an expanded $800,000 funding commitment. Rainbow Refugee founder Chris Morrissey came to make the announcement about the RRAP before participants strutted their stuff on the seawall.

Our community partners that benefit from FOH grants showed up in teams, including MOSAIC, Qmunity, and VAST, along with members from numerous Circles of Hope and corporate teams led by TELUS and TD Bank.

STRUT_2019_BKH_8569

We are ever grateful for all the corporate sponsors and partners that came onboard, old and new. These include the 2019 platinum partner TELUS and platinum sponsor Hootsuite, as well as the supportive partnerships with Ruby Blues Winery, DJ Krista, Fountainhead, Glacier Media, Portable Electric, and Innocent Ice Cream.

Of course we cannot go without acknowledging our faithful long-standing contributors that include TD Bank, Pacific Alps Retirement, Kevin Perra Realty, PI Financial, Fluevog Shoes, Body Energy Club, and Andrew Beckerman.

Special thanks also go out to Squamish Elder Byron Yususultxw Longclaws and Hlgu Ni’is Yu’us (Terry Azak) of Nisga’a Nation for their annual opening welcome and blessing. We also thank Miss Gloria Hole and Miss Mina Mercury of Tuck Entertainment for the spectacular performance. Thanks to Christopher Hunte and Barb Snelgrove, respectively, for their continual support with the event programming and for hosting the affair. Big thanks as well to Jay Brotherton at HIM (those legs!) for leading the warm up event.

We are so grateful to welcome Outook TV as a dedicated LGBT+ media partner and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are an unmistakable presence year upon year. Tremendous thanks to Brian Houle for his incredible photography.

And of course, we are so fortunate for all the donors, volunteers, and STRUT walkers who took the time to support this cause and raise the funds that enable safe migration of LGBT+ asylum seekers and refugees worldwide.

In the words of Carl Meadows, it truly does take a village.

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Welcoming UNHCR into our community as Foundation of Hope turns 4

The week leading up to today has been filled with hope in a global sense. One of the first partnerships formed by the Foundation of Hope was with LOUD Business Community in 2014, shortly after we became a registered society in BC.

That was four years ago today.

The following spring on April 15th, 2015, FOH attained registered charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) thanks to Benefic Law acting as our charity consultant. It unlocked our donor potential as we launched the first ever STRUT annual fundraiser.

STRUT brought in over $40,000 in Year 1.

We took steps to assist Rainbow Refugee to be directly positioned to receive downstream benefits of our fund as a local partner. We linked them to Benefic and once again, on the eve of STRUT 2017, Rainbow Refugee attained CRA registered charitable status and immediately became an eligible for FOH grants.

Now in 2018 and four years later, we are a national organization with grants awarded across Canada. Thanks to our corporate partner TD Bank, Aeroplan miles provided travel needs for civil society groups to attend international proceedings like last week’s Equal Rights Coalition conference here in Vancouver, co-chaired by Canada and Chile.

The conference is how we made our newest friendship and hope to for a strategic alliance with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), an esteemed UN body advancing the cause for safe migration worldwide.

LOUD Business Chair Blair Smith, whom the UNHCR contacted in advance of the conference, arranged for FOH to meet and discuss our role in Canada around forced migration of LGBT+ persons. To us, it was obvious that a meeting should not occur without the presence of Rainbow Refugee.

So thanks to the arrangement on August 8th, Ottawa-based Jean-Nicolas Beuze, UNHCR Representative in Canada with Rainbow Refugee leaders Chris Morrissey and Sharalyn Jordan sat together in the warm sunshine on the terrace at Oceanic Plaza. They talked in depth about what is going out there, who the major players are, and what is needed now.

We listened closely and two things become clear.

Firstly, the UNHCR is an authority on the acute crises faced by SOGIE migrants worldwide and a valuable link to international civil society groups and services. As a registered charity, UNHCR Canada is eligible for grants from FOH, which can be directed globally to address urgent situations.

Secondly, our volunteer work over four years, thanks largely to a close partnership with Rainbow Refugee, has made FOH more aware of the breadth and depth of civil society groups within Canada. Working to address the needs of SOGIE migrants, this capacity can facilitate UNHCR efforts to direct globally vulnerable migrants to Canada and out of harm’s way.

It will give them hope.

Jean-Nicolas explained how few LGBT+ Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have access to resources allowing them to learn about humanitarian work in places like Canada. Individuals become destitute, are often decimated and left to dangle at the end of a rope. Together, FOH and Rainbow Refugee can assist the UNHCR to better understand possibilities available to them in Canada.

An important milestone has been achieved on our fourth birthday. This connection to the UNHCR really has the potential to amplify the work being done locally to address this global humanitarian crisis.

Together we can help Canadian charities be more visible to those countless individuals lacking the resources to give them any will to survive. These connections cast a beam of light beyond Canada. It can guide the journey out of darkness and into the lights of Hope.

Tremendous thanks goes out to our community partner LOUD Business for such a thoughtful birthday present.

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