Privately Sponsored Refugees
Catching up with Dan Meester ’02
Dan Meester ‘02 was probably best known for being the kid whose dad was the geography and economics teacher. He was part of the mountain biking club, played Father Piedras in the 2000 HDCH production of Lilies of the Field, and noted that he failed to make an electric guitar in the woodworking club. “When I graduated, I think in the yearbook I was voted “Most likely to be a teacher at HDCH.’”
Reflecting on his time at HDCH, Dan is thankful to the English, history, and geography teachers who taught him how to write, especially Mrs. Boonstra. “I can honestly say that without those lessons about how to structure my writing, I never would have been able to do the kind of work I’m doing. It also didn’t hurt that she was hilarious and an excellent play director – thanks, Mrs. B!”
After graduating with a degree in Public Policy from Carleton University, Dan spent a year teaching English as a second language in China. When he returned, he studied International Law and Refugee Law at the University of Ottawa. He then earned a Master’s Degree in International Affairs at Carleton University.
Currently, Dan is working as a Refugee Officer with the Canadian High Commission in Kenya. Every year, Canada chooses close to 25,000 refugees from abroad to be resettled in Canada. Dan selects, interviews, and screens about 1,000 of those refugees per year.
“It is amazing to have the opportunity to go to refugee camps and do my best to understand people who have a different background from mine. To hear their stories, and to be able to do something for them that improves their lives is very rewarding. It’s also interesting to work on the security screening side of things to make sure that the refugee system is safe and effective.”
Many of the people Dan works with have experienced serious trauma. And while his experience of these stories is second-hand, Dan shares that repeatedly hearing about these experiences is the hardest part of his job. “I find that it’s important to have people to talk to about it. It’s also good to know that I can do something to help the people I’m talking to.”
Interestingly, Canada is one of the only countries in the world that allows groups of private citizens to raise sponsorship money to help refugees integrate into Canadian society. “I’m very excited about spreading the word about Canada’s program for privately sponsored refugees. Given HDCH’s focus on compassion, creativity, and resilience, this is the kind of initiative in which the HDCH community could become more involved.”
Dan explains that one way to get involved is to form a group of five adults who are committed to helping a refugee family. This sponsorship includes raising money, finding the family a place to live, enrolling the children in school, and, most importantly, providing a community of support. “To help vulnerable people come to Canada and help them to adjust to a different culture is a complex, but very meaningful experience.”
“My HDCH experience helped me to learn about compassion by teaching me about people who come from different backgrounds, especially people from other countries. The geography classes and the experience of going on a mission trip to Mexico with other HDCH students made me think about what was happening outside of Canada.”
Dan’s advice for high school students looking to graduate shortly:
“Get to know people whose experiences are different from yours and just listen without judgment.”
More information on private refugee sponsorships is available on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website:
Adrianne Sprogis, Communications Director
Hamilton District Christian School