Asghar enjoys coming to Flemingdon Park Ministry because the interaction with the staff, volunteers and guests is helping him to learn English. “I can go to the doctor by myself, without a translator!” Asghar’s sense of pride in his accomplishment is undeniable, yet he is a humble man. “My son was living in Canada and he was very sick. My wife and I came to help him. Now that he is better, he is busy with his own life, so my wife and I are alone. We are old and we want to return to our own country, but that is now out of the question.”
He misses friends and family that he left behind when he immigrated to Canada from Iran, but he has found a new family at Flemingdon Park Ministry. “Helena (The Rev. Helena Houldcroft) is my sister. When I talk to her she listens and helps me. The people here are my family. I pray for them every day and also for all of the people who come here. I ask God to help the people and to bless them.” Asghar has just one wish: “Peace for all the world.”
Nadia moved to Canada from her native Iran sixteen years ago. As a stay-at-home mom, Nadia’s days were busy and that helped to ease some of the loneliness that she felt being separated from her parents and brothers back home. Now that her two daughters grown, Nadia decided it was time to get a work. But with no Canadian work experience, she had no idea where to begin. That’s where Flemingdon Park Ministry and its STAR (Skills Training, Access and Resources) program came in. She has been learning new skills and building her resume through volunteer work at the ministry. Helping others gives Nadia great joy.
She told me, “God is helping everybody. I know he is watching me and helping me to help others.”Nadia is hopeful for the future. “My faith gives me courage. My kids give me hope. They attend French school and I am grateful that this will help them to have a better life.” Nadia was finally reunited with her parents and her brothers two years ago when the family immigrated to Canada. Her New Year wish is for “health and happiness, to have my family around me, and to enjoy our time together.”
“I was on the streets for 15 years.” Sharon and I met at the Friday drop-in for street-involved women at All Saints Church – Community Centre. “I used to come to the church every day to sleep during the daytime. Now I come for church on Sunday and to the drop-in on Fridays. I’m an addict and not the nicest person to be around when I’m on drugs or just coming off being high. But the people here, they understand. Barb (Barbara Todd, the women’s drop-in coordinator) is a very special lady. I came here one time when I was so sick, I almost died. I did die. They got me to the hospital and I was on life support for three weeks. When I woke up I was mad because I figured, I’m an addict, it’s my time to go. But since that time, I’ve stayed clean and I’m pretty sure that I’m done (with drugs) this time. I have four kids and I want to see them but I can’t see them if I’m on crack. I signed up for a treatment program in October and I’m still waiting to hear. It seems like forever.”
I asked Barb what she wished for the New Year and she started to cry. “This is a very hard time for me. All I want is to be with my kids and I can’t. I don’t want to talk about it.” I saw her pain and asked if I could give her a hug. Then I told her that my New Year wish for her is that she will get into the treatment program and be able to stay away from drugs so that she and her family will be reunited. She hugged me again and then she was off.
Valerie volunteers as the food bank receptionist on Thursdays. When she is not busy helping others, she enjoys spending time at Flemingdon Park Ministry. “I make new friends and I like the people here. I get bored at home but here there is always someone to talk to, a free coffee and a friendly face.”
Valerie helps to care for her aging mother and she worries about what will happen when her mother is gone. “Whenever I am worried, I know that I can come here. Helena (The Rev. Helena Houldcroft), Banazir, Kate and even Mac (The Rev. MacIvan Rogers) are great to talk to. They have become my close friends and my second family. They are a great support team.”
Valerie’s wish for the New Year is for a world without violence