Islington in the News

Islington Supports Refugees

Islington United Church
Supports Those Starting a New Life in Canada
Etobicoke Guardian - Thursday May 24, 2018

 
Caring, sharing and love are the hallmarks of Islington United Church's refugee-support ministry, which has served newcomers to Canada for almost 40 years. As sponsors, the church makes a one-year commitment to be responsible in every way for a family's needs as they settle in a new homeland and face the challenges of Canadian living and culture. Since it began this work in 1979, Islington has sponsored 97 people, representing 32 groups from 13 countries, to come here to safety and a new life.

The procedure could be compared to an adoption process, making applications, planning, waiting, final preparations and welcoming with joy upon arrival. The work is supported by the entire congregation and a very busy ministry committee of some 20 people, who meet regularly, raise funds and acquire household goods and personal items so that everything can be ready for new arrivals.

Once a family arrives, our keen and motivated committee moves into high gear, helping to get children into school, parents into ESL courses, finding doctors and dentists for the family, working with the family to create an employment strategy, and making sure they get to know the community and all its services. And we celebrate achievements with them, working toward Month 13, when they will be financially independent and ready to move into Canadian life to start their new story.

Wonderful friendships are made as we go through daily living experiences.

Newcomers say that they are amazed with such a wonderful welcome and grateful to people who want to help them, but especially for the love shown. They appreciate the friendships, the family support, invitations to homes for dinner, tours of the city and special outings, and even the support by committee members to new mothers through labour. Children even created relationships with church members who acted as "grandparents."

All are proud to become Canadian citizens within three to five years; many own their own homes and now have children attending university. They have found employment as administrators, service industry workers, as well as skilled tradespeople and as teachers and engineers.

Since the arrival of Syrian refugees in 2015, the ministry committee has established the Etobicoke Network of Refugee Sponsors, to offer training to first-time refugee sponsors in best practices, through a variety of workshops and information sharing.
Visit our refugee photo gallery at the church on any Sunday morning after worship - Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.

Laurie-Beth Page was the first chair of the Refugee Support Ministry committee at Islington United Church in 1979; she continues this work as a committee member today.