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St. Alban the Martyr, Burnaby is a little church with a big heart - a big heart for people. Having sponsored a Syrian refugee family in 2014 (and providing emotional support over the four years {2014 to 2018} that it took for that application to be submitted and approved before the family finally landed in Canada), the parish has valuable experience when it comes to sponsorships. It was not a surprise that the parish readily agreed to once again sponsor an Afghan refugee family who walked through the church doors on a cold December 2021 Sunday morning and support that family through the often long and difficult process of sponsoring and bringing a family to Canada.   

The people who walked into the church that December Sunday morning were Keranna and Ishaq. Both were active in women's rights Issues, working with Oxfam in Afghanistan. For that and other reasons they were extremely vulnerable in Afghanistan. Following arrival in Vancouver as a refugee in 2017, Keranna was simultaneously working three jobs, including retail sales jobs and English language training for refugee settlement organizations in BC. Ishaq arrived in Canada as a refugee in October 2021, after being repatriated from Afghanistan by the Canadian Government. Since Ishaq's family had also provided settlement services to the UN and western organizations in Afghanistan, the family were in extreme danger with the three siblings of Ishaq fled to Tajikistan as refugees in May 2021. The members of the parish readily agreed to sponsor the application in January 2022, and thanks to the outstanding support of Dr. Shakuntala Soden, Diocesan Refugee Coordinator and Shannon Muir, ODNW, Chair of the Diocesan Refugee Unit of the Diocese of New Westminster, they were able to submit applications very quickly to Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in April 2022, as soon as Afghan refugee sponsorship allocations became available. The applications moved quickly through the complex process and the family were overjoyed to be rescued and reunited as permanent residents in Canada on March 10, 2023, just over a year after walking through St. Alban’s welcoming doors. Ishaq, after working for Home Depot soon after arrival, now works for Immigration Settlement Services of BC (ISS of BC) and helps other refugees to settle in BC. Ishaq and Keranna also have their first born, Ibrahim, a bouncy, happy 7-month-old baby. So, it's a wonderful, happy, joyful story - and the members of the Parish of St Alban’s looks forward to helping the family settle in and establish a home and a new life in BC.                 

(Article and Photo submitted by Sebastian Thomas)