Welcome Home Refugee Housing Community celebrated its 10-year anniversary in April with a banquet attended by 200 supporters and community members, some of whom have been around since Welcome Home first began to care for refugees in 2004.
Sharon Schmidt, Welcome Home’s Director, says that it has been exciting to see the housing community grow from a dream into a place that has given almost 200 refugees shelter, support, a place to heal, and a place to build relationships with each other and with the local community. “To be able to share Jesus with them in what we do and say, and to know that we are living out His command to welcome the stranger in very practical ways, it has been very exciting for all of us. We’ve had eight local churches get involved, saying Welcome Home is one of the ways they’re living out their mission locally. Being willing to partner with us, send us volunteers to serve, and raise money and awareness — we all celebrate that!”
Welcome Home had a family — two teenage boys and their parents — arrive from Afghanistan in January after hiding out for 40 days in a small room with no windows, trying to find a safe way out of their country. Sharon says they had absolutely nothing. “It was the coldest day of the year, and they were walking around at the bus stop with no winter coats, no boots, in -40 degree weather. They were traumatized and exhausted and had medical needs. Folks from The Journey bought them coats, people from Calvary United bought them shoes, some others showed up with food they knew an Afghan family would like, and grocery cards to provide for them during the 8 weeks they receive no government support. It was so amazing to see our community rally around this family. Now they’re living in an apartment, the kids are going to school, and they are starting to get their feet on the ground.”
Still, there have been some heartaches over the past 10 years: performing exit interviews with refugees being sent back and knowing the valid fear they have and the danger they’re going back to, countering the negative rhetoric that surrounds refugees in our current political climate, and having to say no to brand new arrivals due to lack of space. Sharon says their dream for the next 10 years is to find some more space, and build deeper relationships with local churches. “More space would be great, so we could take in more families and expand our internship program to include more interns. And we love the way it is going with our churches — we want them to have more and more say with what we do with the money and volunteers they send our way. We also want to continue to do what we’ve done and do it well, to be faithful to what we started with. That’s the dream that we would love to see.”
Visit give.iteams.ca/welcomehome today to give, and welcomehomekw.ca for more stories of refugee ministry in action. A monthly gift of $10, $20, or $50 in honour of Welcome Home’s 10-year anniversary will help provide a safe place for refugees to land for another 10 years.