For International Pride Month, Copperleaf® organized a month-long charity fundraiser in support of Rainbow Refugee (RRS), a non-profit organization that advocates for individuals who have fled their home countries due to persecution based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. We speak to Norma Lize, trans activist and Rainbow Refugee communications manager, and Copperleaf’s Guy Soulliere, who led the organization of this fundraiser, about the Rainbow Refugee’s work, how Copperleaf is helping, and the results of our fundraising campaign.
Can you explain what the Rainbow Refugee’s Circle of Hope is?
Norma: “Circles of Hope are groups formed by LGBTQI+ community members and allies to sponsor a refugee to relocate to Canada. Rainbow Refugee provides a mentor for every Circle of Hope to support them through the process of sponsoring and resettling a refugee. These circles also act as a support system—much like family members, friends, and colleagues—to welcome refugees and share the privileges of living in a country where we are all accepted, respected, and protected regardless of our diversities!”
How has your work helping asylum seekers resettle in Canada affected you as a refugee yourself?
Norma: “I moved from Lebanon to Canada in 2018 based on persecution of my gender identity, and found Rainbow Refugee a couple of weeks after I landed here. I started as a volunteer supporting a lot of Arabic-speaking refugees, I then became a member, and in 2020, a full-time employee. Working with Rainbow Refugee is one of the most rewarding jobs ever. Working with queer refugees (my RRS colleagues) to support other queer refugees is like walking the walk and talking the talk! I am a strong believer that there is no work for us without us!”
Can you tell us about the Rainbow Refugee Circle: Habib’s Hope?
Guy: “Habib is a young gay man who fled his home country, where he was persecuted for his sexual orientation, and came to Canada through Rainbow Refugee’s assistance. Habib’s Hope is a Rainbow Refugee circle that is helping to bring his family to Canada. Habib’s mom and three siblings found their own lives in danger for simply protecting him and his location—they’re currently refugees in another country and our goal is to reunite them with Habib in Canada as soon as possible and help them thrive in a safe environment and community.”
How did Copperleaf fundraise for this campaign and what were the results?
Guy: “Copperleaf’s Random Acts of Delight (RAD) initiative allows our people to support causes close to our hearts and give back to our communities. I suggested Habib’s Hope as one of the charities we would support through RAD and worked with the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) committee to make the circle the beneficiary of our International Pride Month activities. We organized two fundraising events:
- Drag Queen Bingo which celebrated International Pride Month and kicked off our month-long fundraiser
- A raffle fundraiser with three winner’s choosing an experience of their choice. The more people donated, the more raffle tickets they earned.
It was a huge success! We raised $5,000 from Copperleaf employees and another $5,000 matched by the company, for a total of $10,000 CAD! The funds raised will be essential to help Habib’s family establish new roots in their first 12 months in Canada. That encompasses assisting with: the refugee immigration process, finding their new community, finding a place to live, finding employment, and helping them get set up in their new home.”
What does it mean for you to be able to bring the full support of our company to this cause you’re so passionate about?
Guy: “This meant the world to me. I only recently got involved with Rainbow Refugee after hearing about it from friends and then meeting some of the people they’ve helped come to Canada. After meeting Habib and hearing his story firsthand, it was clear to me that my own struggles growing up gay in a less tolerable time paled in comparison to what he and his family are still experiencing today. He inspired me to make a difference.
Copperleaf provided me with the platform to not only reach out and ask for help, but reinforced that some of my younger self-beliefs no longer applied. Living covertly and feeling like I should hide my true self was the norm for me as a young adult. As much as I’ve learned to shed that over the years, who I am in the workplace is the last frontier for me in being true to myself. Leading this initiative has been rewarding in so many ways. Number one, is that I can be my authentic self, be respected for that as a leader at Copperleaf, and be appreciated for that with the level of support given to this campaign. I’ve had many (hundreds) of feel-good experiences at Copperleaf in the eight years I’ve been here and this one has certainly been the best so far.”
How can the public help?
Norma: “The public can help by starting their own circles, spreading the word about the amazing work that the circles are doing with Rainbow Refugee, and donating so that circles like Habib’s Hope can achieve their financial goals faster.”
If you’re interested in making a tangible difference for a family who has shown unconditional support in the face of adversity, you can donate to Habib’s Hope here:
The Copperleaf RAD initiative allows our people to get involved and support causes close to our hearts. Learn more about the program here.