When I was first asked to participate in a sponsorship group, I had little information and wondered what I might be getting myself into if I agreed to participate. My first task was to learn some more about the situation for GLBT people around the world. Very quickly, I realized what a harrowing reality it is in several countries and cultures. In Iran for example, family members feel justified in an honor killing of one of their own who does not conform. The state sanctions this. I considered the acceptance and easy life I have known and the freedom provided me by the luck of my birth in Canada. This compelled me to try to help one person to a better life.
Our newly assembled group of five began by acquainting ourselves with the immigration process and putting together our information, budgets etc. As well, we connected with an organization devoted to helping Iranians get to countries like Canada. Through this, we chose to sponsor a bright young man named Malek. The wait began and lasted several months until we were finally phoned and told when Malek would arrive.
On March 20th, we waited at the foot of the stairs at our new airport until a handsome smiling young fellow walked down the steps.
Malek lived with Darrin and I for the first few months, while he was in the Start program. In that time we got to know one another and became good friends. I found myself seeing life through his eyes, a hundred new experiences, so many adjustments all at once. I only wish I could be as adaptable as he was.
It has been an extraordinary experience participating with Horst, Mark, Ken and my partner, Darrin, in our group of five. The focus of my joy has been in meeting and coming to know Malek. We all feel we hit the jackpot in sponsoring such a lovely person, who has all the ingredients to succeed overwhelmingly in his new life as a Canadian.
He has been with us for just nine months, but that must feel to him like much longer. This short period of time has been very compressed for Malek, becoming part of a new family, learning a new language, and immersion in a culture he could scarcely have imagined in his home country. In comparison, it makes my life feel rather routine where most weeks seem the same as the last. It makes me want to try a bit harder.
I am grateful for this opportunity to come to know a person who has experienced a life so different from my own, with challenges I never had to face. I’ve learned a great deal from Malek.
We can only hope that someday, all parts of the world will be as accepting as our own country. In the meantime it is a privilege to be able to help, and to share that which we take for granted, with someone as deserving and promising as Malek.
I would highly recommend that if you are considering sponsoring a GLBT refugee that you take the plunge. The experience is rewarding on so many levels.