Cliffside Refugee Committee
Almost a year later.... (April 2017)
Ousman has had a busy 10 months in Canada. He has found his own apartment, a basement unit in a house in the Beaches neighbourhood. Over the winter he has had numerous jobs, mostly in construction, continuing the work of framing and painting that he started last summer. In April he starts a new job at Metro, the food store's warehouse and distribution operation in Etobicoke. "It's a long trip each way but it's a good job with benefits," Ousman says. Ousman wants to pursue a career in construction and has enrolled in a certificate course at George Brown College (Casa Loma Campus) for blueprint reading and analysis.
The refugee committee is enormously proud of Ousman's progress in settling into his new country. He's made connections with his Gambian compatriots as well as making new friends in the broader community. He's well on his way to being a 'new Canadian!'
Welcome Ousman Senghore! (June 2016)
On June 23rd, Thelma and Shirley welcomed Ousman to Toronto, after and almost 24 hours trip from Senegal via Paris. He arrived with a small backpack and a small suitcase and not a penny in his pocket, but ready and eager to start building a new life in Canada.
Ousman has fled his home country of The Gambia in Western Africa because of the real threat to his life. Gambia is well known for its beautiful beaches and its appalling history of human rights -- particularly toward gay men and lesbians.
Since his arrival, Ousman has seen the freedom and safety we enjoy here in Canada and was totally overwhelmed at Toronto's Pride, as the Prime Minister, Premier, and Mayor all marched in the Parade. What a difference!
St. Paul's is actively supporting Ousman financially, socially, and spiritually. He's found a community of friends here at SPUC but is also connecting with a gay-positive Muslim group here in Toronto. He starts some classes in July and is actively looking for volunteer as well as employment opportunities. If you want to connect with Ousman, you can send a message to him via our contact page.
Background of the Committee
The Cliffside Refugee Committee was officially launched on May 15th as a community response to the evolving crisis of refugees and migrants around the world. Started by concerned members of St. Paul’s United Church on McIntosh St. in Cliffside, the goal is to invite people across the neighbourhood to come together in helping address the biggest migrant and refugee crisis since WW II.
By the end of May, the Committee received the good news that its application for sponsorship had been approved. They have been matched with a refugee from Gambia, who is fleeing his home country because of identity persecution. “We’re not sure when he will be arriving – schedules are notoriously unreliable right now – but we’ve already started to get ready to welcome him,” said committee chair Thelma Collins.
There’s a lot of advance preparation required such as gathering household items, furnishings, and supplies to outfit a small apartment. “We’re hoping to find either a flat or a bachelor apartment in the neighbourhood,” added Collins. As well as collecting items and searching for accommodation, the Committee is researching Gambian customs and traditions, and encouraging people in Cliffside to join them in this sponsorship project.
Sponsors undertake to support their refugees for their first year in Canada, guaranteeing their expenses for food, shelter, and other necessities. As well, sponsors commit to welcoming them to Canada, assist in job searches, and help them adapt to their new community. “This can be as ordinary as showing them how to use the TTC and where to shop, or can be as complex as finding a family doctor or figuring out how Canadian society works,” noted St. Paul’s minister, Rev. Daniel Benson. “All the things that we take for granted or assume as ‘normal,’ can be big changes for a newcomer. Our commitment is to make him feel at home as quickly as possible, and help him navigate his new surroundings,” added Benson.
Daily, the news is filled with stories and images of desperate people risking their lives and seeking haven from war, violence, religious persecution, and abuse of human rights. Like many other churches across Canada, members at St. Paul’s United Church in Cliffside wanted a way to offer practical help in this emergency. “The need is huge, and I know we’re helping just one person. In a way, that doesn’t seem much. But for him, it means the difference, literally, between life and death. That’s something I can really get behind and support with both my time and my wallet,” said Committee member Shirley Forrest.
Anyone who would like to join the Cliffside Refugee Committee (you don't even have to live in Cliffside!) is very welcome. Many hands make light work, and your participation, enthusiasm, and support are very welcome.
You can reach the Committee through the church via the Contact Page.
You can also make a donation to the Committee through Canada Helps.