With $1.5M, the 'Schindler' of Canada Has Saved 200

Jim Estill has given Syrian refugees new life in Canada
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2016 9:46 AM CST
He Heard About Families in Syria, Then Decided to Save Them
A screen shot of Jim Estill, from a Ted Talk a few years ago.   (YouTube)

The quote near the top of the story is this: "I didn't want to be 80 years old and know that I did nothing during the greatest humanitarian crisis of my time." It's from Jim Estill, CEO of the Danby appliance company in Guelph, Ontario, and it goes a long way toward explaining why the headline at Toronto Life refers to him as the "Oskar Schindler of Guelph." The humanitarian crisis he's referring to is the plight of ordinary citizens in Syria, and Estill has now brought 58 families—more than 200 individuals—to Guelph to begin their lives anew. Estill hasn't just put up $1.5 million of his own money, he's now spearheading an ever-growing operation that encompasses job-training, language lessons, housing development, the coordination of volunteers and donations, etc.

At this point, Estill "is prototyping an ambitious sponsorship program that he hopes will grow into a full-scale humanitarian movement," writes Mark Mann. "He wants to show other wealthy businesspeople across the country how they can front the money, set volunteers in motion and use their professional networks to find jobs for refugees." Estill emphasizes that last point: It's not about fostering dependency. "You’re not doing anyone any favors if you just hand them checks." He chooses the refugees himself, and his voice breaks while recounting those life-or-death decisions. He looks for families with someone able to work, meaning singles and seniors are generally excluded. “Who do you help?" he asks. "How do you choose who starves?” Click for the full story, which describes the 59-year-old Estill in a tongue-and-cheek manner as "annoyingly disciplined." Among other things: no TV and a codified set of "success habits." (More Longform stories.)

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