Waiting, waiting, waiting…

Waiting is hard! It’s been over a month since our group was tentatively matched with a family profile, and still we are waiting, waiting, waiting…

All we know is that the family is currently undergoing security screenings and interviews with Canadian visa officers in the refugee camp near Beirut where they’re staying. Every day I check my email with great hope that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has received word and knows when they’re coming. And every day, there’s no information yet.

In the meantime we are getting ready for their arrival. The biggest news is that an incredibly generous couple, Mariam and Samir, have purchased a house for the family to live in. This takes a tremendous weight off my shoulders, as I was searching for a house suitable for 13 people without evening knowing their arrival date – not an appealing prospect for many landlords. Now we’ll have landlords who are deeply dedicated to the cause.

new house

The 4-bedroom house is located in Port Elgin with a large fenced backyard. It’s within easy walking distance of the high school, with a school bus direct to Saugeen Central school, close to the rail trail and playground, and situated in a quiet neighbourhood. The family will be very comfortable there.

Thank you to the countless people who have offered donations, both in the form of money and items. In fact, we’ve received offers of far more items than we can possibly accept. Elizabeth and I are in the process of putting together a list of what we need and who’s offered it. We are striving to plan the ideal furniture layout to accommodate so many people, and, in the interest of conserving space, must be careful about what we accept. If you’ve offered something we need, you will hear from us soon.

Thank you, too, for the surplus of clothing. We don’t need any more for now, but will let the public know when we do via this website and our Facebook page.

In light of the many comments and requests I receive from people wanting to get involved, there really isn’t a whole lot to do right now. I know, it’s hard – I find it extremely frustrating at times – but it goes along with the refugee sponsorship process.

Once the family arrives, however, there will be more to do. I hope the community of Saugeen Shores will open its arms to this family, invite their children over to play, take the parents out to meet people, bring them food, offer day trips, gift certificates, homework help, rides, extracurricular activities, cups of tea shared around kitchen tables. That is the kind of support that will ensure this family’s full integration into our community and the sense of belonging that they’ve been seeking for possibly many years.

The process has just begun. We hope to bring a second family later in 2016, at which point we’ll do this all over again. We also fully intend to continue fundraising and sponsoring refugees for as long as the organization has money, so keep making financial donations and encouraging your friends and family to do so as well.

Clearly this is something that resonates deeply with the residents of Saugeen Shores, who have proven to be generous and compassionate thus far. This town makes me fiercely proud! Together we’ve done something that started as only a small dream.

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcoming Refugees in Times of Fear

This message was sent out by Mennonite Central Committee, the facilitating organization for our refugee fund. I found it to be inspiring and important, which is why I want to share it with you.

The vicious use of terrifying violence in Paris, and before that in Beirut, and before that in Yemen, and before that… all of this angers me. I really cannot understand how anyone can wreak this kind of horror on their sisters and brothers in the human community. It is abhorrent.

But it is not new.

It seems new in part because it offends our sense of fair play in war; that trained people in uniforms should be killing other trained people in uniforms. And even though we know the death of “innocents” in war already has a long and tragic history, we still recoil when fresh-faced western youth are massacred in a Paris theatre. From within us comes a deep need to respond. To pay back. To show we are not cowed. To eradicate the terror-maker. To make sure no more of “them” are allowed on to our soil.

“Them” in this case applies especially to refugees from Syria and Iraq. “Them” is that group that our government has invited in by the thousands. 25 thousand to be precise. And “they,” far more than us, are the terrorized.

They have stared into the horror of vicious violence and decided that as much as they love their homelands, they are willing to resettle in a strange new land.

Welcoming “them” may be one of our most powerful acts of resisting the evil of terrorism. And if the huge spike in numbers of people offering to help sponsor Syrian refugees since the Paris attacks is any indication, many Ontarians believe this to be true.

Is there a risk? Of course.

Would we be safer by closing the door to our free and democratic society? I do not think so.

As a faith-based organization Mennonite Central Committee is deeply committed to active, non-violent peacebuilding. That is why we are highly engaged with school and community leaders in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in building religious tolerance and teaching peacebuilding skills. This alone will not end the current warring in the region. But it just may contribute to a more lasting peace in the future.

For us to model peacebuilding in Syria and then close our doors to the victims of terror there undermines the very gift we have to share. Though far from perfect, Canadian society practices an embrace of difference that is remarkable, and in the end is a strong weapon against fear and terror.

We face a long and uncertain road to peace. As I was almost finished writing this an Amish friend told me to end with these words from a great Teacher: “Repay evil with good.”

Wise and timely advice.

A Response to the Paris & Beirut Attacks

Statement in response to attacks in Paris and Beirut from the Canadian Council for Refugees:

The CCR joins in the global outrage at the recent mass murders in Paris and Beirut. The loss of life and shattering of our sense of security connects us to the daily death and destruction in Syria and in other countries at war. We hope that Canadians will remember that Syrian refugees are victims of this violence and will redouble their commitment to welcome them in Canada.

We are dismayed by some public statements unfairly associating refugees with security risks. We would like to point out the following:

– Refugees are people who are fleeing violence and are looking for security. They are not a threat to security.

– Refugees who come to Canada are subjected to rigorous security screening, whether they are selected abroad for resettlement or they make a refugee claim in Canada. The Canadian government has a well-developed and sophisticated system for doing security checks, through Canada Border Services Agency and CSIS. They review personal information of the applicants and assess them according to certain factors that might point to a possible risk. If applicants fit a profile of concern, they are subjected to more detailed screening, including if necessary an interview with a CSIS agent. Processing of such applicants is delayed while the security check is conducted.

– Everyone considered for resettlement must be referred by either the UNHCR or by private sponsors in Canada. It is not possible for someone to propose themselves.

– The UNHCR refers for resettlement only a tiny portion of registered refugees. They refer refugees who are particularly vulnerable (e.g. a widow with several young children, LGBT refugees who at risk in their place of temporary refuge, or someone who has health issues).

– Private sponsors name people that they know, often family members of  people in Canada.

– The events of last week do not require any change in Canada’s approach to Syrian refugees, since ensuring a thorough security check was always a mandatory part of the plan. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has consistently said that processing will be done as fast as possible, but without compromising necessary security checks.

– Every day thousands of people enter Canada other than as refugees. It is unfair that refugees are singled out for suspicion. People planning to come to Canada to commit crimes would be unlikely to try to come as refugees since processing is often difficult and they would be subjected to security screenings. It appears that most of those committing the attacks in Paris were French or Belgian citizens: European citizens can easily enter Canada without any security screening.

– The individuals who have committed recent terrorist attacks in Canada have been born in this country.

Every day Syrian refugee children in the Middle East go hungry. Winter is coming and their situation will grow worse. Syrian refugees have more to be fearful of than Canadians do.

Opening our doors to refugees is one of the strongest ways possible to reject the violence and the incitement to hatred and division represented by the attacks.

http://ccrweb.ca/en/statement-response-attacks-paris-and-beirut

We’re starting to collect winter clothes!

We’ve started to collect winter clothes for the family, so that we’ll be ready as soon as they arrive. Here is an updated list of the items we are still collecting. Please note that we are accepting winter outerwear only at this time, i.e. warm coats, snowpants, hats, mitts, and boots.

16 yr old male
14 yr old male
10 yr old female
6 yr old male
5 yr old female (we already have boots)
5 yr old male

Deliver in person to the Dr. Earl Health Clinic, located beside the movie theatre in Port Elgin.

Shortly, we will notify the public about furniture needed for the family’s home. If you have any mattresses or bunk beds, please keep us in mind, although we do not yet have a place to store them.

Thank you!