Our Refugee program – final update (December 10, 2017)

Good evening/morning.

My name is Mary Borys and with my husband, Tom, we are the chairpersons of the Blessed Sacrament Refugee Sponsorship Committee, which began its initial stages of the ministry over two years ago along with many other Canadian organizations in response to the tragic situation of refugees throughout the world, particularly in response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Thank you for offering a few minutes of your time as we offer this final update regarding Nihad Hirmiz and Reeta Matti, mother and daughter, sponsored by our parish and who arrived almost exactly one year ago from a refugee camp in Syria where they had lived for 7 years after fleeing the violence in their home of Iraq.

Thanks you to Fr. Larry for his spiritual and pragmatic guidance, the committee members, English coaches, drivers and those who offered time and services and to you our parishioners for the financial and prayerful support of this ministry.

We have kept the parish informed by several updates throughout the year in the bulletin and on the parish website. Often, we made very specific requests in those bulletin updates and I wish to indicate that everything we requested we received through your generosity.

As I said previously, we are nearing the end of the one-year arrival of these women and the end of the formal sponsorship year according to the Federal Government’s BVOR (Blended Visa Office for Refugees) agreement that we have through the Hamilton Diocesan Office for refugees as our Sponsorship Agreement Holder with Citizenship and Immigration Canada. It is a mouthful but it is the tiered system within which we work.
What this means is that we will go through a formal transition whereupon the women will begin to continue their lives here in Canada as they gain further independence and our financial commitment ends. This has many factors in areas such as budgeting, transportation, housing, English acquisition, employment and especially as they access the Ontario Works program for social assistance for their financial support. While this ends the formal documented support, it will not end the moral and spiritual support with Nihad and Reeta who have indeed become our friends.

I would like to share a few remarkable examples of the Holy Spirit at work in this unmarked territory, none of which we could have designed and all part of trusting the Lord’s good guidance.

When they arrived we discovered that Nihad and Reeta are Chaldean Catholics and the Chaldean community for the region is situated right here at Blessed Sacrament. They worship Sunday afternoons here in this church. They immediately found a community with this congregation.

When we looked for suitable housing and located an apartment, we were offered one-month free rent by the rental agency. Across the hall lived an Arabic speaking family from Iraq who became friends with Nihad and Reeta.

As you can imagine there were and continue to be many medical services required, critical and not elective. One of the treatments is at the cost of $1500.00 per application, and not covered by OHIP. The physician involved intervened for us and persuaded the pharmaceutical company to cover all costs.

Dental and dental surgery, again critical and not elective, continues to be offered at either no cost or at 50% of the cost.

Routinely we met Arabic speakers at appointments and interviews who graciously made us all feel welcome and comfortable, and many translators, when needed, offered their services for free.

While Reeta and Nihad are members here at Blessed Sacrament, they are members of the Chaldean Catholic community. On occasion they have joined us for Sunday worship as well as two of our coffee and donuts Sundays. However, at the advice of the Director of the Diocesan Office for refugees, we are not to put them in any situation that is uncomfortable for them such as personally standing up here to thank the parish. Please understand how difficult and stressful this would be. This is due to the many already difficult and indeed traumatic situations they have experienced. So on behalf of Reeta and Nihad, please know that they are extremely grateful to all of you. They now have a life, however not easy, that is free and without fear. We are all so blessed to live in this country, our home and theirs, Canada.

As we approach the Christmas season, we have had offers to contribute financially to the family. However, because we as a parish are soon ending our financial obligation and will be closing the account by the end of January, we are unable to accept donations. If you wish and it would be greatly appreciated, gift cards to affordable retailers such as Wal-Mart, Winners, Fresh Co., Food Basics would be invaluable to them and may be dropped off at the parish office.

Once again, on behalf of the committee, we thank you for your support and ask you to continue praying for Nihad and Reeta as they continue to proceed forth in this new stage of their lives.

Mary and Tom Borys on behalf of the Sponsorship Committee.