How we work

The Government of Canada allows individuals and groups to privately sponsor refugees. These sponsors are responsible for the financial and emotional support of sponsored refugees for 12 months after their arrival in Canada. Learn more about private refugee sponsorship and funding.

We are very grateful to once again be working with First United Church of Ottawa and the United Church of Canada, as Constituent Group and Sponsorship Agreement Holder respectively. Learn more about our partnership with First United Church of Ottawa and the United Church of Canada and how our second set of sponsorships will work.

Fitting community resources to each family’s needs

OCRA created 12 Family Support Groups (FSGs) to settle each refugee family as they arrived. These groups of volunteers supplied living space, clothing, furniture, kitchen supplies and much more. They also provided friendship, advice and assistance when needed throughout the sponsorship year. Many volunteers continue to be involved with the families well past the 12-month period of support that the government requires.

Members of FSG 8 and the Agha family

The FSGs helped with the following:

  • Drafted detailed settlement plans
  • Provided emotional support and friendship
  • Offered soft-landing housing before permanent housing was arranged
  • Located and arranged for permanent housing
  • Enrolled children in school
  • Provided formal and informal English lessons
  • Assisted with employment counselling and job searches
  • Helped with banking and financial management
  • Arranged language testing for adults, and helped them enroll in language school
  • Managed medical needs – including OHIP enrollment, dentists, family doctors
  • Provided interpretation
  • Organized and attended social events
  • Sourced donations of clothing, household goods and furniture
  • Introduced families to Canadian customs
  • Helped with grocery and clothing shopping
  • Enrolled children in community recreational and social programs
  • Babysat children and provided transportation
  • Helped the families cope with Canadian winter

Where OCRA fits in the refugee settlement community

Many newcomers ask about the relationship between OCRA and Ottawa’s Refugee 613. Refugee 613 is a coalition co-ordinating and communicating about Ottawa’s response to the refugee crisis. It includes settlement agencies, health organizations, housing experts, the City of Ottawa and sponsorship groups.

OCRA is one of those sponsorship groups. With the help of our hundreds of participants we at OCRA are now in a financial and elbow-grease position to sponsor several families. We work closely with Refugee 613 to ensure our information and resources are up to date.

In memory of Paul Dewar, our former honourary chair, 1963-2019

Paul was our Honourary Chair, and he did much more than lend us his name. Paul brought Ottawa’s proud history of refugee sponsorship to our group, and offered wise counsel and valuable support from the very beginning. He shared with us the joy of providing a safe haven for our refugee families and was always available when advice was needed.

Many of us will fondly remember him making and selling lemonade with the kids at the wildly popular Great Glebe Garage Sale lemonade stand. We owe him a debt of gratitude. We will miss you, Paul.