Since its inception seven years ago, Welcome the Stranger (WtS)—Greater Toronto Area (GTA) has welcomed 43 refugees to Canada, consisting of five families and one individual. WtS is made possible by the collaborative efforts of eight Mennonite congregations and one Be in Christ (BIC) congregation in the areas around Markham, Stouffville, Gormley and East Toronto. WtS chair Andrew Reesor-McDowell, who represents Hagerman Mennonite Church on the committee, announces that the organization is expecting another 14 people in the next five years, resulting in a total of 57 refugees resettled in the GTA. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) provides guidance and support to groups of seven to eight volunteers who are matched with each newcomer family or individual. Lys Laurence, a WtS volunteer, describes how each volunteer welcome team provides logistical and emotional support, including “preparing homes, helping register children in schools, orienting them to local amenities and inviting them into their community.” What is unique about this welcome model is the direct mentorship and intentional relationship building that is integrated into the resettlement process, says Reesor-McDowell. With the support of MCC Toronto, he foresees many more families being welcomed by community members.
—By Christen Kong
A newcomer family and Welcome the Stranger-GTA volunteers enjoy outings to Willowgrove. (Photo by Andrew Reesor-McDowell)