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My Path to Sponsoring an LGBTQI+ Refugee with Rainbow Railroad

My Path to Sponsoring an LGBTQI+ Refugee with Rainbow... My Path to Sponsoring an LGBTQI+ Refugee with Rainbow...
Thirty years ago, I escaped the war in Bosnia and started a new life, first in the US then in Canada. Now, I’m in a position to help. 

Almost 30 years ago, a group of compassionate people came together to help me escape the war in Bosnia. Their kindness changed my life forever and motivated me to pay it forward. This is one of the many reasons why I’ve chosen to get involved in sponsoring an LGBTQI+ refugee with Rainbow Railroad, an organization I’ve admired for years.

I first learned about the opportunity to sponsor a refugee when my friend Moein posted online asking people to get involved. A chance to positively impact a refugee fleeing violence and persecution was instantly relatable and meaningful to me, as I had once stood in similar shoes. I quickly messaged Moein.

Now, I’m officially part of a sponsorship group, which includes my partner Rodney, working hand in hand with staff at Rainbow Railroad to fundraise and prepare for the arrival of an LGBTQI+ refugee in search of a better life here in Canada. Reflecting on my own experience settling down in a new country, I sincerely appreciate the crucial support from a few individuals who played a pivotal role in helping me. It’s incredibly gratifying to do the same for someone else fleeing persecution. 

Working with Rainbow Railroad has been an enlightening experience. The staff has been incredibly responsive, offering valuable resources that prepare us for the challenges and responsibilities of sponsorship. We constantly communicate with them as we fundraise and develop all the needed support for the refugee we’ll help welcome to Toronto. 

Our group is awaiting the newcomer’s arrival with a mix of excitement and nerves. We eagerly anticipate the moment he arrives in Canada and plan to welcome him here. At the same time, we are keenly aware of the challenges he’ll face in the months and years to come. Despite the nerves, we couldn’t feel more reassured by the staff at Rainbow Railroad, whose experience and guidance are invaluable in ensuring that we are ready to support him in the best way possible. 

Toronto, the city I’ve come to call home, is a cultural and economic powerhouse, boasting a thriving LGBTQI+ community. It’s a place where countless individuals, including myself, find refuge, safety, a better life, and the freedom to be ourselves. I’m hopeful that he will be able to feel the same way I’ve come to feel: safer, freer, and living without the threat of violence and persecution. I want, and hope for him, to become part of this vibrant and dynamic city and country I’m now proud to call home. 

To those considering becoming sponsors but are unsure:

In a world marred by chaos and negativity, sponsoring an LGBTQI+ newcomer to Canada offers a chance to make a tangible difference.

While the commitment is serious and demanding, it’s a shared responsibility within the team, bolstered by support from Rainbow Railroad and other settlement organizations. For me, it’s also been a way to grow my community right here in the city, as I’ve become friends with my settlement teammates.

The queer community holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I feel a profound sense of belonging. I feel that being part of the queer community comes with the responsibility to look out for each other, especially as queer and trans rights face challenges globally. It’s a collective responsibility to protect our hard-won freedoms and bring our straight allies along the journey to be our best selves.

The other day, I watched the sunset over the city skyline from Riverdale Park East in Toronto. Sitting on a bench and watching the sunset, I reflected on my journey, which started almost 30 years ago. I again fell in love with Toronto — its openness and ambition — which has given me so much opportunity to live my best life. We are full of hope that our newcomers will have the same opportunity.

I recognize that there are countless ways, big and small, to contribute. 

I feel fortunate that one way I can contribute is by helping to welcome an LGBTQI+ newcomer to Canada. I hope my story inspires those who haven’t joined the effort to consider how they, too, can make a meaningful impact. 

If you live in Toronto, Canada and are interested in learning more or becoming involved in Rainbow Railroad’s Private Sponsorship Program, please complete a volunteer form.

Dario K is a Rainbow Railroad volunteer who is part of a Private Sponsorship Group that is fundraising and preparing for the arrival of a newcomer.