Hi, I’m Jim Estill. You’re likely here wanting to know more about the refugees and what we’re doing. I’ve written this to give you a little more information.
Since beginning this journey of bringing Syrian refugees to my hometown, Guelph Ontario Canada, the question I’ve been asked repeatedly is “why?” So it is a question that I’ve naturally given a lot of thought.
Why choose to help this cause and not others? Why choose to go to all the trouble? Why choose to give so much time and money to people I’ve never met?
But that’s just it—it wasn’t a choice at all. The answer circles back to one of my personal mantras that has done me well in both business and life: Do the right thing.
I like to read. A lot. I read books, news articles, anything to further my own knowledge. Because of my unending curiousity, in 2015 I kept a close eye on what was happening in the Middle East and Syria. The stories and images broke my heart.
It wasn’t a choice. I had the means and opportunity to help, so I did.
I like to start with the end in mind. Success is 50 families to safety. 50 families working, paying taxes and buying groceries where you and I buy them. 50 families speaking English and have some degree of integration. We are helping people through a hard time – not trying to keep them on charity. I have failed if any of them end up on welfare.
The process hasn’t been easy. Getting into this, I knew it would be difficult but the biggest challenges were ones that none of us saw coming. Picking up 50 families and plunking them into a new country that is very unlike where they’re from, it isn’t hard to foresee some difficulties. Learning the language, adjusting to Canadian lifestyles, finding work. Not easy challenges, but manageable nonetheless.
No, the more difficult challenges were things like delays in the entrance process, maintaining volunteer interest while we waited for families. However, those difficulties pale in comparison to the hardest task of all: deciding which families to bring in. It is like playing God and it causes lost sleep.
The Syrians we bring in have been through a lot. They often have families in Canada. They have mentors and helpers to help them start to build a new life in Canada. They do need to help themselves though.
I love being the CEO of Danby (as well as being a mentor to all my side projects) and while it’s been tricky to accommodate everything, it’s been a true test of my time management abilities. Suffice to say, it has been a tough go. But as hard as it has been (and will continue to be), I wouldn’t change a single thing.
Many of the stories written have said that I have saved or rescued these people. I wouldn’t say I’ve saved anybody—all I set out to do was provide a way out and an opportunity for people that I saw were suffering. These families are now part of my community, and my life. If I can share a little bit of money and time to help a family to not only survive, but flourish, that sure sounds like the right thing to do.
Jim Estill, CEO of Danby
Update: A lot of people have reached out to ask how they can help, here are two ways.