“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
On Sunday, October 18th, 2015, the Armenian Family Support Services (AFSS) and Holy Trinity Armenian Church hosted an ’ addressing the need for community support as they are preparing for refugee settlement of Syrian-Armenians to Canada. The AFSS is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) through the Private Sponsorship Program with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and is currently accepting applications for refugee sponsorship. The information session provided participants with an overview of the Sponsorship Program, a history of the AFSS programs and current commitment to help Syrian refugees with settlement in Canada. Special guests included His Grace Bishop Abgar Hovakimian, Primate of the Canadian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church and Mr. Yosief Araya, Manager, Refugee Sponsorship Training Program, Catholic Crosscultural Services.
With a full house, Ms Rita Odjaghian, Chairperson of the AFSS and the Refugee/Settlement welcomed everyone and facilitated the afternoon presentation. Rev. Archpriest Fr. Zareh Zargarian, Pastor of the Holy Trinity Armenian Church, opened the information session by expressing his gratitude to the AFSS and the church community for coming together during this time to help our fellow brothers and sisters. Maida Icliates, former Chair of AFSS and founder, spoke about the beginnings of the AFSS, the support from Father Zareh Zargarian to make this “seed of hope” of AFSS become a reality and celebrate its 11th year of helping our community. Mr. Yosief Araya, Manager of Refugee Sponsorship Training Program, reviewed the Private Sponsorship Program and the responsibilities of each SAH organization. His Grace Bishop Abkar Hovakimian, Primate of the Armenian Church, Canadian Diocese provided the closing remarks which conveyed a sense of gratitude and responsibility as a community to come together. He spoke of the humanitarian efforts of Hay Doun in Montreal, sister office to the AFSS, and their settlement of over 600 families in Montreal.
There was a question and answer period followed by participants enjoying coffee and desserts as they joined together to discuss how they can get involved and give a helping hand to Syrian-Armenian refugees that will be arriving in Toronto. The information session was presented in both English and Armenian. This was an important opportunity to explain to our community the various ways they can volunteer their time and make a difference, including meet and greet at airports, introduction into the community, and assistance with networking and job search. The presentation captured the attention of the audience, which prompted many interesting questions and ideas.
Armenian Family Support Services (AFSS) is a non-profit community organization whose mission is to provide emergency support, settlement, and employment and referral services in the Greater Toronto Area. We are committed to enabling individuals to fully integrate, participate in and contribute to civil society. Our activities are guided by our core values of respect, dignity and cultural sensitivity.