The southern tip of Eritrea borders Ethiopia. Valemount’s refugee family sought refuge in Kenya, whose northern tip also borders Ethiopia. / GOOGLE MAPS


Valemount’s sponsored refugee family was set to arrive this week, a year and a half after residents first set out to sponsor a family.

A 25-year-old mother and her seven-year old son from Eritrea (who were living in Kenya) are flying into Kamloops where they’ll be met by a representative from the Valemount Learning Society and escorted back to Valemount.

The community has raised more than $17,000 and collected hundreds of donated items for the family.

Learning Society manager Riette Kenkel is not sure yet their English language proficiency. VLC will be working with the mother and son to provide literacy training and counseling.

Kenkel is working on scheduling local volunteers to assist the family with applications and settling in. Anyone who is interested in volunteering to work with the family directly must provide a clean criminal records check. Those interested can call Riette at 250-566-4601.

Kenkel says volunteers are needed for:

    • assistance applying for Provincial Health coverage and Care Card; Interim Federal Health plan; Social Insurance Number; Child Tax Benefit.


    • assistance opening a bank account


    • Orientation around Valemount – shopping, library, school registration, doctor appointment, vaccinations, etc.


    • Counselling services


    • assistance with English language tutoring/conversation practice


    Transportation, especially during inclement weather (there is a child’s bicycle at the home, but no adult bike.)

Eritrea’s southern border touches Ethiopia’s north, and political and military tension is rising between the two countries. Upward of three per cent of Eritrea’s total population has fled the country, originally reported by the Guardian.

The pair’s Blended Visa (BVOR) case summary says the husband disappeared a few years ago. “If he were to be located, she would like him to join her in the country of resettlement. In her home country, she was persecuted based on her ethnicity and she will appreciate the assistance of the sponsor in Canada.”

Whether Valemount would get a refugee family at all has been in question, as the initial goal was to sponsor a Syrian family. Canada’s admittance of Syrian refugees slowed in February after the government met its goal of bringing in 25,000 refugees. Valemount was initially matched with Syrian refugees but the family was re-routed to Ontario to be closer to family members .

The BVOR program requires a group of five people or more — or an organization like VLC — to raise roughly half the anticipated living expenses for the sponsored refugees first year in Canada. The group is also required to set up a support system for the refugees to help them integrate into Canadian life.