The push to get a Syrian refugee family settled in Merritt continues, and despite a couple hiccups in the process, the local rotary clubs are confident that a community-wide effort to find a family to sponsor will pay off.

Merritt’s two rotary clubs are working on the project in conjunction with each other (and will be merging completely sometime this summer), and though the groups did initially pursue a private sponsorship of a family, an opportunity to resettle a family already in B.C. presented itself.

“We were asked if we would consider accepting one of the families already in Vancouver, who currently haven’t been able to find any housing.

They would have been the government sponsored refugees,” explained Becky Puterbough, international co-ordinator for the Rotary Club of Merritt.

But because the families already in Vancouver are quite large, and have unique language barriers, Merritt was deemed an unsuitable location to resettle the families.

So the clubs have now redoubled their efforts towards finding a refugee family to sponsor, specifically one with family or relatives already living in British Columbia, said Puterbough.

“We would be looking to bring them here through the blended visa route — so the government would be supporting them, but we would also be supporting them as a community as well,” she added.

The family would most likely come from one of the refugee camps which have been set up in Turkey and Jordan.

The cost to sponsor a family for a year is estimated at $28,000, explained Puterbough, and the two Merritt rotary clubs have already put forward $14,000 towards the effort.

Because half of the cost has been accounted for, the process to get certified through the Family Links Initiative (the government program created to allow Syrian-Canadian families to sponsor their relatives), can now begin.

Part of the effort behind fulfilling the necessary prerequisites for sponsoring a family involves putting together a community committee of interested stakeholders.

The rotary clubs have put together such a committee, which includes representation from rotarians, the school district, a local councillor, and other community members enthusiastic about sponsoring a family, said Puterbough.

“We’ve also received lots of calls and emails from other people in the community offering things like furniture, or when the refugee family is here, they would be willing to spend some time with them to help them learn the language,” added Puterbough.

Ideally, the committee will find a Syrian family based out of Abbotsford, or the Interior, who would be able to assist with communication in Arabic.

While the process to bring a family to Merritt has begun, Puterbough could not confirm a realistic time line for when the refugee group might arrive.

“I don’t anticipate that family would arrive before the new year, at the earliest,” she said.

Those interested in contributing to the effort before the family arrives can send donations to the Rotary Club of Merritt at PO box 938, V1K 1B8.