Right now, we are facing a shortage of individuals or families who can mentor and guide recently arrived refugees as they settle in this new environment. We are currently looking for matches with refugees arriving from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Syria and Somalia.
Here is a glance into their lives before they arrived here in Canada. This will help you better understand why we need Canadian volunteers who can help support with their transition. We accept families and individuals as volunteers.
Authoritarian rule. Forced conscription where soldiers are subject to inhuman and degrading punishment, including torture. Lack of education. Continuous violence. This is everyday life. Eritrea remains a dictatorship that imposes authoritarian rule with strict limitations on its people. Citizens are unable to freely communicate and gather for fear of imprisonment. Eritreans are the 9th largest refugee population in the world.
A predominantly rural and nomadic society, Ethiopians rooted in the land scratch out a meagre existence. Frequent natural disasters, drought, political repression and armed conflict have resulted in famine, starvation, societal disruption and death. According to the World Health Organization, the health status of Ethiopian citizens is poor. Malaria, tuberculosis, intestinal parasites and acute respiratory infections are common due to the lack of access to clean water and sanitation.
Refugees from Sudan have lived through violence, conflict and severe food shortages since 1983. 63% are children under 18. It is the largest refugee crisis in Africa, the third-largest in the world. Most of those fleeing are women and children and they are often survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault and, in many cases, children are travelling alone.
400,000 deaths. 5 million refugees. 6 million displaced internally.
Chemical attacks, torture, forced disappearances, attacks on schools and hospitals and the withholding of humanitarian aid. These are the atrocities committed against Syrian civilians. In addition, non-state armed groups have also committed a multitude of abuses. ISIS has reportedly used civilians as human shields and has employed the same war tactics as the government, which includes chemical attacks, starvation and human trafficking.
Somalia has been engulfed in civil war since 1991 and while there is a federal government, many areas are controlled by rebel groups. Terrorist attacks and serious drought have pushed communities into acute food insecurity, leading to 174,600 severely malnourished children.
More than 2.6 million people are displaced within Somalia itself. It is the longest-running refugee crisis in the world.
Given these small snapshots of life before Canada, you can understand how important it is to have a supportive and compassionate volunteer. With your support and commitment, you can help these individuals adapt to their new home, all while making life-long friendships.
For more information or to volunteer please e-mail: Beata Lutaba | firstname.lastname@example.org
MARSHA BRODRICK | COMMUNITY VOLUNTEER
When she retired from teaching, Marsha Brodrick was looking for a meaningful way to spend her time. Through her church, she heard about a new refugee family in the community who needed a volunteer friend. Marsha decided that this was the “something meaningful” she was looking for. She contacted CCIS and became one of three volunteer friends for three families who lived together. The volunteers shared the responsibilities and divided up tasks according to each person’s strengths; one would help to practice English, while another accompanied the adults to get licenses and attend appointments.
“Initially, my family was apprehensive,” said Marsha. “We all sat around, not sure what to say.” In spite of that, Marsha says she “knew they looked forward to my visits.”
Language was often a challenge. Google translate helped but had its limitations since Google uses Arabic script and could not translate accurately to Kurdish. However, everyone persevered and they used a lot of charades and pictures from the web.
“As a mother of four boys, I was able to relate to this family, who had five! I knew what they were going through and what the next steps were. My experience as mom was more important than my experience as a teacher.” One of the boys in her family wanted a part time job, so Marsha helped him write a resume and drove him around to drop it off. Eventually he got a landscaping job for the summer .
Marsha grew close to her family. “The family wanted to share memories of lost relatives. I had so much compassion for their trauma; and I saw so much resilience and happiness. Many of them are happy just to be alive.” Marsha admits it was a huge learning process but takes pride in the fact that she felt appreciated and knew she was making a difference. “I could see the family moving forward and becoming more receptive to activities beyond speaking English.”
More than a year later Marsha continues to regularly visit the family. She enjoys seeing them settle and adjust to life in Calgary. “The settlement process is a big cultural shock,” she says. “My goal is to assist the family feel like members of the community and part of Calgary.”