Flo­radale opens its arms – and homes – to Turk­ish refugees

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - WHIT­NEY NEIL­SON

REFUGEES CON­TINUE TO FIND sup­port in Water­loo Re­gion, even in the small ru­ral vil­lages.

Flo­radale Men­non­ite Church hosted a fundrais­ing lunch last week­end, with the pro­ceeds be­ing split be­tween Men­non­ite Cen­tral Com­mit­tee’s refugee sup­ports and the In­ter­cul­tural Di­a­logue In­sti­tute, which is ac­tive at Con­rad Grebel Col­lege in Water­loo.

“It was re­ally nice just to see th­ese two groups come to­gether and talk about their lives and re­lat­ing to each other’s sto­ries. There’s not a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to do that and take the time, so I think cre­at­ing th­ese types of spa­ces and op­por­tu­ni­ties is im­por­tant and help­ful,” said Leon Kehl, Flo­radale Men­non­ite Church’s mis­sions chair­per­son.

About 150 peo­ple came out who raised $1,700, and

some 25 peo­ple came from the lo­cal Turk­ish com­mu­nity.

The meal was pre­pared by the Turk­ish com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing Turk­ish refugees who are stay­ing in Flo­radale.

The church has cre­ated a gen­eros­ity fund which is used to help other or­ga­ni­za­tions sup­port refugees. They’ve also pledged $60,000 to help MCC with refugee sup­port.

Two Turk­ish refugees are stay­ing with Kehl’s par­ents in Flo­radale.

“It was ac­tu­ally through a con­tact at IDI and be­cause of the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Turkey and that they have fam­i­lies, they were specif­i­cally look­ing for a non-Turk­ish, nonMus­lim, English speak­ing house­hold be­cause they don’t want to be pub­lic, or that could ex­pose their re­main­ing fam­ily mem­bers to dan­ger,” Kehl ex­plained.

They plan to stay in Canada as per­ma­nent refugees. One was a jour­nal­ist and one was a high school prin­ci­pal. They’re go­ing to school for English lan­guage train­ing and the former high school prin­ci­pal has done some cater­ing for fam­i­lies in the area.

They’ve been stay­ing in Flo­radale since De­cem­ber.

“The one fel­low’s a re­ally good cook. They showed up on Dec. 11. My wife’s birth­day is Dec. 12 and he wants to open a restau­rant. I said ‘I’m at work to­mor­row, would you like to cook for my wife for her birth­day party?’ And he said ‘sure.’ So they did that and it was a won­der­ful meal.”

Kehl says he’s been en­cour­ag­ing him to open a Turk­ish restau­rant in Elmira.

He adds they’ve been warmly re­ceived by the church and the Flo­radale com­mu­nity, and the ben­e­fit goes both ways.

“I think it cre­ates an aware­ness of some of th­ese events that are hap­pen­ing in the world. Also, aware­ness of the com­mon parts of our faith. Th­ese par­tic­u­lar peo­ple are re­ally wired to ser­vice and help­ing peo­ple. There’s a lot of com­mon­al­i­ties in that and Men­non­ite tra­di­tions. That’s, I think, been help­ful for peo­ple in our church to re­al­ize in many ways we’re very sim­i­lar,” Kehl said.

Kitch­ener-Con­estoga MP Harold Al­brecht at­tended the lunch and notes he tries to at­tend as many pub­lic events in his rid­ing as pos­si­ble, but there were a cou­ple other rea­sons why it was im­por­tant for him to at­tend.

“This was par­tic­u­larly close to me be­cause of my long­stand­ing com­mit­ment to care for vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, es­pe­cially for new ar­rivals in Canada. My his­tory on this goes back to 1987 when Betty and I had a refugee fam­ily live with us for a short time,” Al­brecht said.

The former refugees from El Sal­vador have be­come some of his clos­est friends.

He says when you think about wel­com­ing new­com­ers to Canada, es­pe­cially as refugees, it’s crit­i­cal they have ei­ther a fam­ily or group of fam­i­lies who are specif­i­cally com­mit­ted to walk­ing with them through those first months and through the ad­just­ments.

“We had a fan­tas­tic meal pre­pared from one of the new ar­rivals from Turkey. But the bet­ter part of it is to see this church com­mu­nity rais­ing funds for what they call a gen­eros­ity fund, which ac­tu­ally helps other groups who are com­mit­ted to spon­sor­ing refugees. So they may have the time and the peo­ple that can com­mit to walk­ing with the refugees, but they may not have enough cash flow.”

“It comes back to hu­man com­pas­sion, what’s the right thing to do in this sit­u­a­tion.”

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