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A Canadian CEO Is Putting Up $1.5 Million Of His Own Money To Resettle Syrian Refugees

"I'm a business guy who's not accustomed to things going slowly."

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A business executive in Guelph, Ontario, is putting up close to $1.5 million of his own money to help resettle 50 families of Syrian refugees in the city.


Jim Estill, the CEO of the appliance company Danby, told BuzzFeed Canada the effort started a few months ago after he grew frustrated at the slow response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

"You have to do something when a humanitarian crisis is happening," he said. "I'm a business guy who's not accustomed to things going slowly."

Estill said he called a meeting with a half-dozen local clergy from different faith groups and laid out a plan to resettle 50 families in Guelph. It costs about $25,000 to $30,000 to sponsor a family of refugees to Canada.

"We had one meeting for one hour. I did a PowerPoint on what needed to be done to land people here, and asked them if they wanted to help. And they said yes."

Estill said that by covering the financial aspect, the larger community in Guelph can take care of the families' other needs.


"The reason I said I'll underwrite the whole thing is because it's just easier," he said. "I saw all these church groups raising money doing a bake sale, and you're just not going to get to any scale at $25 a pop. I know it's great and generous, but there's too much of that volunteer energy being spent on pretty small-scale stuff."

The network Estill has put together includes the Muslim Society of Guelph, local churches and synagogues, the Salvation Army and other charities, as well as his contacts in the business community.

Together they have already arranged food, housing, furniture, and clothing for the new arrivals. Each family will also get an English-speaking mentor and an Arabic-speaking mentor to help them.

"I want to make it clear: I'm not doing it all," Estill said. "I'm just asking, and everybody else is doing all the work."

The Syrian civil war has displaced more than 4 million people since 2011, according to the United Nations.

Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

Canada has agreed to take 25,000 by the end of February, with at least another 10,000 being resettled later in 2016.

Estill said the community in Guelph is more than ready to do its part.

"The community outpouring has been outstanding," he said. "And we are going to pull it off.

Ishmael Daro is a social news editor for BuzzFeed and is based in Toronto.

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at

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