The CEO of home appliances manufacturer Danby, Jim Estill, has taken it upon himself to oversee the resettling of hundreds of Syrian refugees to his home city of Guelph, in the Canadian province of Ontario. This courageous act was motivated by what Jim feels are his Canadian values: “It’s the right thing to do. You see what’s going on, it’s a crisis and we’re Canadian”.
Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program
Jim is utilizing Canada’s admirable Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) program. This program allows private citizens to bring into the country up to 14,000 refugees per year, with the sponsors paying all expenses for the refugees for one year, or until the refugees become self-sufficient. This includes all food, rent and transport costs. The estimated cost of providing for one refugee for the first year is 12,600 Canadian dollars. The program was launched 35 years ago in response to the Vietnam War, and it is believed that more than 275,000 refugees have been resettled into Canada by way of this avenue.
Bringing Families to Guelph
Guelph’s current population is around 120,000. Jim initially set out to rehome 50 refugee families, with that number rising to 300 over the coming years. He set up a meeting with some of the city’s major religious and charity organisations, including the Salvation Army, the Catholic Church and the Muslim society, all of whom backed his plan, with each group pledging to assist in welcoming the refugees to the community and assisting them in integrating.
Sara Sayyed, one of the cities Muslim residents, spoke to the Guardian of the joint effort that has ensued, “Everybody has gotten involved, from the municipal government to all the different organisations that are out there. We’ve got people from all walks of life, volunteering everything from their time to their services donating things”. Jim and his wife often house refugees in their own home during the initial stages of the process. If it takes a whole community to allow refugees to holistically settle in their new environment, those who are being settled in Guelph are well and truly in good hands.
This program goes beyond merely relocation. Jim has stated that the program’s success will be measured by how well integrated the families that arrive in Guelph are. He is personally backing one refugee’s new livelihood, by way of developing and opening a dollar store for a newly arrived refugee form Damascus who can’t believe his luck, “I still don’t believe it…he brought me here to this country and he didn’t just stop there…no one has been as generous to me as Jim Estill, besides my parents”. Of the 47 families that have now arrived in Guelph, more than half of them have found jobs and are paying their own rent.
Jim is quick to dismiss any praise that might be directed his way, “I still don’t see what the big deal is. And I’m surprised more people don’t step up and do it…I didn’t want to grow old and say I stood by and did nothing. So I decided to do my small part”. What a man. If every city had a Jim Estill in it, I dare say that there would be no refugee crisis. It’s difficult not to feel a sense of sincere gratitude towards the people of Guelph, and towards Jim Estill in particular.