As I travel around the Diocese, sharing the good news of FaithWorks, parishioners often ask to hear the stories of people who have been helped by one of our FaithWorks Ministry Partners. In response to your requests, we are happy to introduce you to some of these people. Here are their stories.
Amos has been an integral part of the FPM team since early 2018. He came to us through an Investing in Neighbourhoods opportunity provided by the City of Toronto where the city pays the first year salary and contract. We are happy to say that Amos is now a permanent employee and plays a key role at The Common Table farm.
Nigerian born, Amos came to Canada via the United States. As a widower and single father, he believes that Canada has better opportunities for his young daughter and himself. They have been here since 2017. Amos is in process to be a permanent resident in Canada.
Wisam was warned before she arrived in Canada that although people here are welcoming, the country is VERY cold. Her sister had arrived in Canada a couple years earlier and told Wisam what to expect. When Wisam arrived in August 2019 she was completely surprised by the weather: “I never thought I would feel such heat in Canada.” She had assumed she would never again feel the hotness of the Middle East she was accustomed to experiencing.
Wisam’s understanding of Canada is typical of that of many refugees fleeing war and persecution. They know Canada is safe compared to where they were, but everything else is a mystery. With the support of FaithWorks, AURA is able to complete our mission of providing support and expertise to refugee sponsors as they guide refugee newcomers like Wisam through the first steps to their new lives in Canada.
Wisam was in for many surprises in Canada: traveling around her new city using a “perfect” transportation system, being able to use the internet to do almost everything, and finding out people can communicate easily with email and text instead of only over a phone. Throughout her new experiences she had the help of members of her refugee sponsoring group: arranging housing, getting her kids into the school, helping apply for health cards, and finding a dentist and family doctor. Wisam says that the support of people who understand Canadian life decreased the hardship she faced as a newcomer by at least half.
That first year living in Canada is critical for refugee newcomers. As Wisam says: “It’s shaping a whole new life for newcomers who feel fragile and terrified as they leave their lives and their stories behind to pursue new ones.” She is working towards becoming a Canadian citizen and would love to be part of a future sponsoring group to help someone else begin a next chapter of their lives, safely, in Canada.
AURA is a Canadian charitable organization assisting in the sponsorship and resettlement of refugees. It is only though the generous support of FaithWorks that stories like Wisam are possible.
Lee first came to All Saints’ a decade ago. It became a place for him to build up himself personally. The staff made sure he was well fed and well taken care of. He describes All Saints as “a space for sanctuary”: a place where he can be social and where he can get refuelled. He knew he was supposed to be in a Church. He knew that he had a calling. He started coming to the Church every day. His friend Saheed got him involved in the garden. It is a very special place for him, especially when it is in full bloom. He has been an active participant in both the drop-in and the Sunday worship communities as a volunteer, sides person, reader, intercessor and, most recently, preacher. He says, “You don’t love the face, you love the Spirit.”
The background to the story is that St George’s, Pickering Village has partnered with All Saints’ during the pandemic. Early on, the Daily Bread Food Bank cancelled our weekly deliveries and we were running out of snacks for our drop-in. To make matters worse, several community food banks had closed and people were coming to our door for food. Parishioners from St George’s helped get us through those first uncertain weeks by supplying us with canned goods, granola bars, and juice boxes. And they didn’t stop there. When news got out that homeless people were fleeing the downtown shelters to camp outside, St George’s folks donated sleeping bags and tents. In fact, it was one of their tents that helped one of our drop-in participants get housing after about 10 years of being homeless. She had been sleeping in stairwells, boiler rooms, and on the roofs of buildings. Once she started camping outside, Streets to Homes was able to connect with her and get her an apartment.
Being part of this partnership has inspired a St George’s parishioner to become a regular FaithWorks donor—see her message below.
I just read the note about one of the donated tents being used and it resulted in someone finding affordable housing. What good news! One step at a time, one person at a time. That is God working among us.
I believe strongly in the work for the homeless, however, I think I’ve led a somewhat sheltered life as I’ve never lived in an area where it is obvious. But hearing about your work at All Saints, through Susan and requests for tangible donations, I feel like homelessness is not such a remote concept to me now. I’ve thought a lot recently about how easy it is to go from having so much to having nothing. A job loss, an illness that drains savings; these things can put one on the streets very easily. And I thank God in my daily prayers for all I have been blessed with.
I don’t mean to go on, but all this has led me to a decision to continue supporting All Saints’ work through Faithworks. I have been a pre-authorized giver to St. George’s for years, but now I will add a monthly FW donation directed to All Saints.
Thank you for all you do there; stay safe, stay well.
Bill lives in a small apartment in a public housing complex. The neighborhood where he lives has its challenges. People struggle with addictions, mental health challenges, homelessness, and violence. And for many people, they are alone and isolated. They have lost contact with family and friends.
The same is true for Bill. He has no family or friends who visit or support him. The Drop-In at the All Saints Church and Community Centre has become his family. All Saints is a place of respite and hope and friendship. It is a place where everyone is welcomed and treated with dignity. It is a place where people are supported as they face significant life challenges. And it is a place where people find belong.
Bill is a regular at the Drop-In. Several times each month he drops in for coffee and conversation. The staff, volunteers and other guests have become his family. Because staff and volunteers know Bill, they began to notice some changes in him. He was more agitated than usual and was often convinced that he was about to be evicted from his apartment. After some investigation, the staff learned that that there was no eviction order.
Bill was in the early stages of dementia.
Like so many of the guests who come to the All Saints Drop-in, Bill faces a challenging future. But instead of giving up on Bill as a lost cause, the staff and volunteers support him and work to preserve his dignity and alleviate his anxiety in the face of a daunting journey.
All Saints cares about Bill. He is not a nameless client who is easily dismissed and forgotten. Bill is treasured as a valuable member of the All Saints community. He is cherished, loved, and cared for.