Lives Changed

Refugee Sponsorship

Tabitha : June 20, 2017 8:00 am : Lives Changed, News

by Rebecca Walker, World Renew Refugee Coordinator; Cameron Klapwyk, World Renew Refugee Program Associate; Kathryn Teeluck, World Renew Refugee Associate; and, Jeanette Romkema, Global Learning Partner consultant

Churches can be a blessing to newcomers and their communities when they reach out and support refugee and immigrant families. This is what missional engagement can look like. Below are a few excerpts from a NEW Refugee Sponsorship Handbook that will be shared with you soon on The Lighthouse website, from World Renew. It is our hope that this resource and this newsletter will assist you in your journey to sponsor refugees, support newcomers or discern your role as a church in this area.

Who is a Refugee?

Who is a refugee? Well, the short answer is:  Refugees are our neighbours. When we think of refugees we often hear the Biblical call to “welcome the stranger.” And welcoming the stranger is a good first step. But in this increasingly interconnected world, these “strangers” are our neighbours and we need each other. When one part of a community struggles, the entire community is incomplete – the entire community hurts.

According to the United Nations Convention of 1951 to which Canada is a signatory, a refugee is “a person who, because of well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or afraid to ask for protection in that country, or not having a country of nationality, is outside the country where he/she usually lived, and is unable or afraid to return to that country.”

A person isn’t a refugee by choice. A person is a refugee by the discriminating choices of others.

The ideal solution for most refugees is repatriation—the resettling of refugees back to their country of origin.

For those who cannot return home, a second solution is for the refugee to create a new life in their country of asylum. However, if neither of these solutions is possible, refugees may be resettled to a third country, such as Canada.

It is important to note that refugee resettlement is a last resort solution. Only 1% of refugees worldwide will be resettled outside their country of origin or asylum.

Canada is unique because it is the only country that allows sponsorship of refugees by private organizations and citizens. World Renew is one of over 100 Canadian organizations that have been granted a sponsorship agreement by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

World Renew’s sponsorship agreement allows churches and groups in Canada, to work together to sponsor refugees.

What is Private Refugee Sponsorship?

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program (PSRP) gives Canadians the unique opportunity to play a meaningful role in the welcome and integration of refugees to Canada. In the program, administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), sponsors apply to resettle refugees who are approved overseas for protection. After the refugees arrive in Canada the sponsor walks alongside these refugees and provides ‘hands on’ support to assist them with settling well in their new community and country. Sponsors provide support with such things as accessing medical services, applying for necessary documents, opening a bank account and learning how to use public transportation. Since the beginning of the PSRP in 1979 the program has allowed Canadians to offer protection and a new home to more than 275,000 refugees.

Having signed an agreement with the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, World Renew is a Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH). This allows World Renew to approve churches and groups who wish to sponsor refugees under its agreement. Privately sponsored refugees arrive in Canada as Permanent Residents. They must settle in the same community as their sponsor.

10 Helpful Tips

Below is a collection of refugee sponsorship good practices gathered from the collective wisdom of the many churches and groups that have sponsored refugees with World Renew over the years.

  1. Pray fervently. Bring all you do to God, for it is through and with Him that great things will be achieved.
  1. Stay humble. We are all on a learning journey and our worst enemy is thinking we have it all figured out. Ask many questions, share information with each other, and invite in wisdom from others.
  1. Listen deeply. As you journey with refugees, listen carefully to them. Ask questions, realize you don’t know as much as you think you do, and seek out learning opportunities.
  1. When in doubt, ask. There is no shame in asking. Please connect with World Renew’s Refugee Office staff if you have any questions. They are happy to answer any question you may have and are also happy to connect you with churches and groups who have sponsored in the past so you can connect and learn from their experience.
  1. Ensure autonomy. Refugees are in need but they want to make decisions for themselves, just as you and I do. Whenever possible check with the refugees themselves when a decision needs to be made that may impact their lives or choices.
  1. Walk along side. You are starting a journey that will be a blessing for all involved. It will be in the walking along side, rather than the leading in front, that the greatest gifts will be received.
  1. Be Realistic. Be aware that you will face problems. Don’t expect that the sponsorship will be easy. It probably won’t be. If it is, you will be pleasantly surprised. Take the long view. If things are difficult, try to picture where the refugees will be in five or ten years in terms of employment, education, assimilation, spiritual life, emotional healing and wellness. Know that every refugee resettlement is unique.
  2. Communicate. Clear communication is key to the development of a flourishing sponsorship and to the functioning of a thriving refugee committee. When communication with the refugees breaks down, either because of misunderstandings due to language or cultural differences, or because of personality clashes, extra effort needs to be made to restore it. The same is true for communication among refugee committee members. The clear articulation of goals, roles, responsibilities, and frustrations are necessary to keeping a common vision alive – the mission of caring for the refugee family no matter what difficulties emerge.
  3. Examine Expectations. Each refugee committee member enters the sponsorship with some expectations of what will happen. Be aware of expectations that you have of the refugees. Are they fair and realistic? Are you expecting them to assimilate into Canadian life and to become independent faster than they are able to? Or, are your expectations of them not high enough? Are you doing too much for them so that they don’t learn to become independent and, instead, form an unhealthy dependence on your refugee committee? Are you trying to fix all their problems, instead of giving them the knowledge and inspiring the confidence they need to become contributors to society? Do you expect the refugees to attend your church and worship with you? Or, are you expecting that they will make their own choices as to where they will worship, if at all?
  4. Celebrate. Celebration hardly seems like a solution to problems, but it can be. Even when you face difficult circumstances, take time to celebrate refugees’ birthdays and other occasions. Generous love and small gifts contributed in a party atmosphere can go a long way to forging love, healing wounds, and building trust.

 

For more information about refugee sponsorship or the Refugee Sponsorship Handbook, please contact Rebecca Walker at World Renew:  rwalker@worldrenew.net, 1-800-730-3490 x4389, or 905-336-2920 x4389.

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A Place To Belong

Tabitha : September 29, 2016 4:04 pm : Lives Changed

The English as a Second Language (ESL) program at the Scarborough satellite location started in 2002, when Rita Wong, the Chinese counsellor and program coordinator, saw a need for emotional support for the immigrant Chinese community in Scarborough. Though The Lighthouse is located in downtown Toronto, the ESL program takes place in Scarborough at Calvary Logos Baptist Church because this area has a large Chinese immigrant community.

The ESL program offers an atmosphere where friendships can develop, and it is a place where newcomers to Canada can share their culture while engaging with others from similar backgrounds. The ESL program provides a Christian atmosphere where the Good News of Jesus Christ is shared during times like Easter and the New Year.

Programs like the ESL class are vital to what The Lighthouse does, to provide essential services to help our clients settle and integrate successfully into the Canadian culture and society. For our clients, they found a convenient place to learn English that works well for their schedules, and have access to a strong community for emotional and spiritual support. This is a well-established ministry through which The Lighthouse has built strong relationships resulting in changed lives.

As a student intern at The Lighthouse, I had a great experience with the ESL program as part of the Chinese ministry. At first I thought I would help Rita out and be a conversational aid to the students. Unexpectedly I was then asked to lead a class. Though I have not been trained to teach ESL, I felt that with my past experiences with peers from around the world as well as my time overseas, teaching ESL could be a natural fit for me.

I loved this challenge and opportunity because it allowed me to practice speaking in front of people in a non-intimidating setting. This opportunity has also given me a chance to learn about the Chinese culture, as I was able to celebrate the Chinese New Year with the students. I learned about different Chinese foods while connecting with the students over an meal. Teaching ESL during my time at The Lighthouse has been a rewarding experience.

One of my favourite memories of the ESL program happened in the third week of teaching. We were reading an informative piece about Valentine’s Day; I read the piece aloud and had the students underline the words that they were unsure of. I then had the students write out five sentences about Valentine’s Day in English. For some of the students this was a big challenge, but as a teacher, it was rewarding to see them communicate successfully.

I was also thankful for my small class size, where I was able to give the students one-on-one help in sentence structure and grammar. While most students came to improve their conversational level of English, some were keen to improve their literacy skills. The small class size and one-on-one time allowed me to understand the educational goals of the students and help the students in achieving their goals.

Since many of the Chinese students are seniors who have immigrated to Canada in recent years, they were quick to tell me that their memory “isn’t so good anymore and learning is difficult with age.” Though they have been out of formal education for a long time, I conveyed to them that eager minds are teachable minds, and as long as they are eager to learn they will acquire the skills they need to get around in an English speaking country regardless of age.

I also had the opportunity to meet with some of Rita’s students who have graduated from the classes and are using the English skills they developed in their day-to-day lives. Graduates have expressed that simple things like going shopping or taking the bus have become much easier because their ESL classes. One student who has been in Canada for about 15 years now, said he has been coming to ESL for the last 12 years. He keeps coming back because he has found community here—he feels like he belongs, as he learns English with his friends.

The mission and vision of The Lighthouse is simple and is summarized in the short tagline: Helping People, Changing Lives. The ESL program in Scarborough accomplishes this by offering God’s love in an environment of respect and care.

When I started my internship one of the first tasks I was given was to write an introduction blurb about myself. I concluded an introduction about myself with 2 Corinthians 3:18. This verse has been a theme for my time with The Lighthouse. Reflecting on the work The Lighthouse and the Chinese ministry on a day-to-day basis, this verse is fitting to reflect on again in retrospect. It describes a present reality for Christians, who, by the Holy Spirit contemplate and stand in the presence of God’s glory. It is my prayer that The Lighthouse and the Chinese ministry may live this glory out in the everyday and may cause other hearts to realize the same glory may be theirs as well.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is Spirit.”

– 2 Corinthians 3:18

 

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Counselling In a “Save Face” Culture

Tabitha : June 17, 2016 12:25 pm : Lives Changed, Vietnamese Program

The Lighthouse’s Vietnamese ministry provides a unique service for the Vietnamese community. As one of the few Vietnamese counsellors in Toronto, Thuy Tran offers a holistic, language specific and culturally sensitive approach to counselling individuals and families from a “save face” culture. A core value of Asian culture is the concept of “face.” This constant and deliberate exercise of “saving face” refers to the desires and strategies of maintaining your honour, respect, reputation to your social circles, and to avoid at all cost any social embarrassment and humiliation.

In an Asian culture, where your social identity is heavily shaped by your relative role and position in your family, friends and peer groups, this ongoing management of “face” can be liken to the management of your social media pages, curating only best posts and pictures to share with your friends and family. Asians beginning at a young age are also socialized to conform to cultural ideals in order to maintain “face” for yourself and your family. This means moderating your emotions and expressions in public, presenting only your best “face” to others, and to never discuss personal failures in order to avoid shame and judgement as to not “lose face.” In this way, the western practice of counselling and psychotherapy, in revealing your innermost hurts and struggles, stands in direct opposition to the Asian cultural practice of “saving face”, leading to widespread stigmatization and misunderstanding of this western healing process.

Counselling is a relatively new concept to the Vietnamese community. Many in the Vietnamese community do not recognize the benefits of counselling and its contribution to mental health as an aspect of their well-being. Here are a few common Asian misconceptions about counselling:

  1. Counselling is only for “crazy” people. In other words, you would definitely “lose face” and bring shame to yourself if people found out you are attending counselling.
  1. Counselling means all your secrets will be shared. Speaking to a counsellor means everyone in your community will find out about your secrets and failures.
  2. We can solve our own problems. Asians are strong people; we can fix our own problems at our own pace; and, we don’t need help and support from people outside.

 

For many immigrant families, who have come to North America with nothing, the migration stress of learning a new language, starting a new life, and loneliness away from their extended family, takes a significant toll. As immigrants slowly acclimate to Canadian culture and practices, many struggle with this new cultural identity, and so they cling strongly to their original cultural identity and practices in this transition. For Asians, “saving face” is one of the practices that have persisted through migration and time. To “save face,” Asian communities discourage and shame people from getting the help they need, frowning upon assistance like counselling even in the midst of severe migration stress, family discord and deteriorating mental health to appear strong and respectable to others. Asian men in particular, are more prone to the practice of maintaining “face” in difficult times so as not to appear weak and shameful to his family and peers. This prevents any consideration of seeking external assistance, such as counselling to avoid revealing any flaws to others and “losing face.”

Without adequate support and assistance, problems stemming from migration stress often persist years after immigration, negatively affecting the whole family. As children of immigrant parents grow up within this new cultural environment, Asian parents often force their traditions and dreams onto their children, which they have clung onto during the immigration process, not realizing or understanding the dreams and aspiration of their children in this new cultural setting. Succumbing to the familial pressure, children easily fall into the depressive moods and develop anxiety to “save face” for their Asian family and social groups. Often they do not get proper help in time, eventually developing severe mental health problems. When someone in the family has mental health issues, it is extremely shameful to the family, so immigrant parents often blame issues on their children. Counselling then becomes a last resort for Asian immigrant parents to “fix” their children to conform to their cultural ideals, without realizing that parents themselves are in need of counselling and support in order to build strong and healthy relationships within a harmonious family.

The goal of the Vietnamese Ministry at The Lighthouse in its unique nature is to educate the Vietnamese community on the benefits of counselling and the importance of seeking help. We offer a safe and respectful environment for individuals, couples and families to address their needs. In addition to counselling, the Vietnamese Ministry also offers a variety of programs for clients to learn new skills and make new friends. From these new friendships, new community groups are born. For example, the Vietnamese Ministry offers a Women Supporting Women group and Parents Supporting Parents group during the school year. In the summer, we offer a therapeutic family summer camp for parents and children, which utilizes play therapy to build family relationships and to encourage positive family interactions. This is the unique contribution of the Vietnamese ministry in building a strong and genuine community beyond a culture and appearance of “face.”

 

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Your Friendly Neighbourhood Food Bank

Tabitha : March 17, 2016 10:00 am : Lives Changed

food_drive_cans_002_-_webThe food bank has always been a key program of The Lighthouse, operating in varying capacities over the years to serve the immediate physical needs of the community. The program began as a “closed” food bank, providing food only to clients of The Lighthouse programs; but a little more than a decade ago it changed to become an “open” food bank, equipped to meet needs in the Bloor-Bathurst neighbourhood.

While we are blessed to be able to continue to operate in this neighbourhood, various factors and challenges in more recent years have put a strain on the food bank. Of particular note, the gentrification of the Bloor-Bathurst neighbourhood has contributed to the growing demand for food bank services.

As rent continually increases with the demand for housing, low-income households are increasingly burdened by the cost of living, and more and more family budgets are being stretched beyond their means. In 2015, the average bachelor apartment in Toronto cost $900.00 per month, making the choice to live in the city a very expensive one. In order to cover the cost of housing, food bank clients often skip meals to make ends meet. According to a Daily Bread Food Bank report, food bank clients on average have only $6.67 per day after housing costs are paid. That’s only $200.00 for a 30-day month to pay for everything that is not shelter – such as (without limitation) childcare, clothing, food and transportation. Considering that it costs $3.25 to ride the TTC one way, a round trip on the TTC would leave the average food bank client with $0.17 for the rest of the day.

Food prices have also risen dramatically, especially the prices for fresh fruit and vegetables – luxury products for food bank clients. Purchasing food at affordable prices is getting harder and harder. With the decreasing value of the loonie, the University of Guelph’s Food Institute predicts that Canadians will spend an average of $345.00 more on groceries this year than in 2015. This presents an additional hurdle for food bank clients already living in poverty.

Your donations are key to providing food assistance to the hungry in our community. As of 2015, The Lighthouse’s food bank has been distributing approximately 450 food hampers to low-income families every month, and each week up to 70 households come to The Lighthouse for food. These households are largely comprised of underemployed youth, people with disabilities, newcomers to Canada and mothers with small children.

At The Lighthouse, clients are welcomed with a warm greeting, coffee and treats. Our food bank operates like a grocery store, where clients can choose and “shop” for their own food from the shelves with the assistance of volunteers. Having our clients choose their own groceries creates a welcome and respectful space without sacrificing dignity. Moreover, registration for the food bank is straight-forward, with new clients completing a basic online profile with staff or a volunteer who explains the rules of the food bank. With an online profile, clients are then able to access any and all food banks within the network of Daily Bread Food Bank food banks, which The Lighthouse food bank is a part. For regulars, a simple hello is all that is needed to sign in, and everyone at The Lighthouse strives to learn the name of each and every food bank client who comes through our doors. Clients and staff mingle and chat with each other to catch up on the activities of the week. There is a genuine sense of community as family stories, neighbourhood news and recipes are shared all around.

Many of our food bank clients have also become food bank volunteers. From unloading the truck to stocking shelves and packaging food, our food bank volunteers work together as a team to ensure that we maintain a clean and safe environment. For 2016, one of our main growth areas is providing training to food bank clients so that they can be equipped as volunteers. If a client volunteers consistently for at least 9 months, the client is encouraged to attend further training in matters of food handling and safety, and is then given more responsibility.

The goal of this client-volunteer development program is to promote leadership and empowerment with practical training that can lead to life improvement and potential job opportunities. We are proud to announce that Paula, our first client-volunteer, recently completed such training and acquired her Safe Food Handling certification.

The Lighthouse’s food bank, though small in size, is big in respect, hospitality, quality food and warm hearts. We address the very real need of hunger in our neighbourhood, while being a source of information and referral to our clients. Our clients build community within our walls and connect us to the neighbourhood around us, allowing The Lighthouse to understand and meet our clients’ needs in a real and direct way. The Lighthouse’s food bank is also a place for development and growth, where we share our resources with those in need to improve our clients’ sense of wellbeing. Your donations enable The Lighthouse to demonstrate God’s love to our community. We are grateful for your prayers and ongoing support.

To ensure that The Lighthouse’s food bank is able to meet the needs of our neighbours, please consider organizing a food drive for our food bank, donate to The Lighthouse, and/or join the conversation about the impact of poverty on Canadian society.

 

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9 Women Catering

Tabitha : May 8, 2015 4:00 pm : Lives Changed, News, Vietnamese Program

9 Women Catering is an income generating program to help low-income Vietnamese families. Created by the women of the Vietnamese women’s support group, the group aims to create a safe and non-judgmental environment for women to express their feelings and their daily concerns. Within the group, Vietnamese women have the opportunity to gather every Monday at The Lighthouse for group discussion, development of life skills, and stress management skills. And on the last Monday of each month, the women gather to cook and share a meal together.

The women of the Vietnamese women’s support group began unofficially cooking 4 years ago for 30 students from Chatham High School, who visited The Lighthouse. It was a positive and successful experience which continues annually. Building upon their success, the women catered The Lighthouse’s Visioning Day, as well as Classis Toronto meetings.

Officially establishing 9 Women Catering in 2014, the group was chosen to cater The Lighthouse’s Annual Fundraising Dinner. In order to provide a safe and professional catering service, a professional chef, Steve, was invited to teach the women about safe food handling practices. Through this training, the participants are learning important life skills valuable for job search or self-employment, building an empowered group of women with positive leadership abilities for the Vietnamese community.

To find out more about The Lighthouse’s Vietnamese programs or about the 9 Women Catering group, please contact Thuy at 416-535-6262 or thuy@lighthousecentre.ca

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