Stirring Hope

Posted By Julia Buckingham
March 3, 2017

A group of students at Trinity Western University is bridging the gap between life in refugee camps and life on campus.

Last summer, Jordan Koslowsky, a second-year International Studies student, came face to face with the realities of the refugee crisis on a trip to Israel.

“After a steep climb in the Middle Eastern heat, I stood on top of Mount Hermon,” he recounts. “Where I stood at that moment, gazing into Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, was nothing short of surreal. What I did not comprehend at that point was the lasting effect this experience would have on my life.”

He returned home with a passion for the people he met on his trip, particularly those in the Aida Refugee Camp, and a desire to do something about the realities they face each day. His dream? To sponsor a refugee family to come to Canada.

Fast forward to September, when Jordan began to share this dream, albeit tentatively, with those around him. “I almost fell out of my chair,” he says, when his professor Paul Rowe, Coordinator of Political and International Studies at TWU, affirmed that sponsoring a family was an attainable goal.

From there, Jordan reached out to friends, classmates, dorm mates, and members of TWU’s Social Justice Club to form a group that could bring this dream to life. Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with this bright young group of students.

The TRAC team (clockwise from top left): Carlos, Rachael, Johanna, Andrea, Emilio, Jordan, Connor and Aki.

Allow me to introduce you to the team. Johanna Alderliesten is a second-year Nursing student who has been working with newcomers to Canada through Settlement360. Carlos Alvaro, a second-year Media and Communications student, was eager to get behind Jordan’s vision. Connor Green is a third-year Human Kinetics student who wanted to do something tangible about the devastating headlines he saw. Aki Imasato, a third-year Business student, wanted to welcome others the way he had been welcomed from Japan. Fourth-year Rachael Penarroyo and second-year Andrea Rodriguez and Emilio Rodriguez International Studies students are active in TWU’s Social Justice Club and were looking to invest in a passion project.

Together, these eight individuals form TRAC, the Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign. Their goal is to raise $34,000 to sponsor a family of six through MCC.

“We want to be ambitious, we want to challenge people,” Jordan says.Through this, TRAC also intends to raise awareness about the global refugee crisis on campus, as well as provide opportunities for all members of TWU’s community, including staff, faculty, alumni and supporters to get involved.

TRAC held a Kick-Off event on February 2, 2017.
TRAC held a Kick-Off event on February 2, 2017.

One unique aspect of this sponsorship is that many of the services that the newcomer family will need are available on campus. “We have scores of TWU students that are studying to be ESL teachers, and business students can teach them about banking and finances.” There’s also a medical clinic on campus, and many students who are eager to assist with food, housing, and getting the family settled.

The team recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of plans to be made, but their passion and energy for this project brings so much hope. “It’s so easy to highlight all the bad things that are happening in the world, but we want to stir hope in people,” says Jordan. “We want to remind them that they have the capacity to do something.”

Here at MCC BC, we’re working to provide you with the tools and resources you need to make a difference in the world. TRAC is a perfect example of the kind of project we want to help you accomplish, and we’re delighted that we get to walk alongside this team as they work to bring a family to Canada. To find out more about TRAC, visit their website here. While you’re at it, purchase a shirt or a sticker to show your support!

If you’re a young adult who wants to find tangible ways to respond to needs in the world, we invite you to join The Committee, a growing community of youth and young adults across British Columbia that are committed to doing more. Sign up for our e-mail and receive five new ways you can start doing more each month.

Making Room at the Inn

Posted By Julia Buckingham
December 20, 2016

Abbotsford, BC – When MCC BC was approached about turning our Material Resources Warehouse into an Extreme Weather Response shelter, the immediate answer was yes. “We didn’t have all the logistics figured out,” said Jane Njogu, Coordinator of MCC BC’s Homelessness Prevention & Outreach program, “but we knew this was something we wanted to do.”

Between November and April each year, BC Housing provides funding for temporary emergency shelters through its Extreme Weather Response program. The program provides mats for beds, and coffee and muffins for breakfast, but needs spaces for these shelters to be set up. In Abbotsford, two other Extreme Weather Response shelters exist at Salvation Army and Cyrus Centre, which together provide shelter for up to 26 individuals.

Since the summer of 2015, MCC BC has been hosting a weekly Thursday Evening BBQ, and a bi-weekly Sunday Dinner at the MCC Centre, located at 33933 Gladys Ave. Over the course of these meals and individual meetings with clients through MCC’s program, Njogu has built strong relationships with members of Abbotsford’s homeless and at-risk of homelessness community. “When people talk about MCC in the forest, what they say is that you care,” one man said.

So early in December, when The 5 and 2 Ministries asked us if we would be willing to consider opening up a space to provide an emergency shelter, the obvious answer was yes. When Njogu made the announcement at the Thursday Evening BBQ, the response was one of extreme gratitude. “Everyone else said no to us. But you… you didn’t,” one woman said with tears in her eyes.

Jane in the Warehouse
Jane Njogu stands in the MCC Material Resources Warehouse, which is transformed into a shelter on a moment’s notice (MCC Photo/Julia Buckingham)

Each time there is an extreme weather advisory in effect (as deemed by BC Housing), MCC will open its doors to 20 individuals on a first come, first served basis. Thanks to resources from MCC’s Material Resources Warehouse, the MCC Centre Thrift Shop and Common Place Cafe, these men and women will have access to sleeping bags, blankets, winter gear, dry clothes, games, entertainment, and a hot evening meal.

“We’ve made room at the inn,” says Njogu.