Sponsorship Update!

Hello everybody,

Last Thursday, May 25 we received some very exciting news: we have been matched with a family of five from the Democratic Republic of the Congo! After being paired with a sponsorship group, families usually arrive 4-12 weeks later. This means that the TRAC team is eagerly preparing for the family to arrive, learning about the DRC, and practicing French and Swahili.

Our most immediate need before welcoming the family is finding suitable housing for a family of five. Numerous families have already reached out to offer furnishings and other necessities. Moving forward, we will continue to share ways you can get involved and release as much information about the family that is appropriate and available, but we are appreciative of any suggestions, insights, or donations!

While we anticipate many unexpected occurrences throughout this next phase of the sponsorship process we are so thankful that we have such a supportive and generous community behind us. Thank you for your continual support, you have made reaching this milestone a possibility!

Additionally, if you would like to “subscribe” to more frequent email updates from TRAC, please email us at trac.twu@gmail.com to be put on your email list,

With purpose and passion,

Jordan

TRAC Stories: Tima Kurdi, finding hope in tragedy.

“Too many people had died in the war and we were still all silent,” Tima Kurdi said, “It took only one picture, of that little boy, to touch our humanity.”

Alan Kurdi is the child that became a symbol for the Syrian refugee crisis. His photo became so viral that it is almost impossible that you didn’t see it. A little 3-year-old who drowned with his mother and brother trying to get to Europe was now face down in the sand at a beach in Turkey. Dead, just like thousands of other innocent people that have lost their lives as a result of the Syrian war.Alan Kurdi

Tima Kurdi, Alan’s aunt, is a face of a refugee crisis that is often described with faceless numbers. She is a Syrian living in Coquitlam who fled her home country in 1992. After the Syrian war started in 2011, her family fled the country, just like millions of others in a similar position. On September 3rd, 2015, she received the news that her sister in law and two nephews had drowned.

Out of her pain, she found strength. She is now using her influence to speak for the millions of victims that remain hidden in history, becoming a strong advocate for Syrian refugees. But she isn’t simply revealing the incredibly tragic stories of the war. “I’m not here today to make you feel sorry for me and my family,” she said, “I am here to plant the seed of hope.”

When we received her in the NorthWest Auditorium, the night of the 12th of February, 2017 for the “Night of Stories” event we could all experience how powerful her message was. She stressed that while we cannot avoid tragedy, we must respond to it with open arms willing to help those who are suffering. “If I couldn’t save my own family, let’s save the others,” she said.

Tima is very serious and extremely committed. I approached her after the event, expressing my condolences for her still vivid suffering and my admiration for her advocacy work. She thanked me for the work TRAC was doing, but did not give much importance to my praise, as someone who is so committed to the people she is working for that she intentionally makes herself invisible.

Even though she has international recognition, she maintains a profile of simplicity and just raises her voice loud and clear when it’s needed, speaking on behalf of her people. She has met with Prime Ministers, Presidents, and international leaders. She has given Ted Talks and conferences globally. However, her business card still only lists her as a hair stylist, the profession she once had in Coquitlam.

“I am not responsible for those decisions [of opening the borders to refugees], I am not a politician, but my voice was heard,” she said. She is an example for most of us who tend to think that we are powerless and cannot make a difference because we are not in charge of the decision-making.

Turns out, we do have a decision: to speak up, stop being part of the silent majority, and start acting today, just as Tima did. Among other things, she created the “Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation,” an organization that raises funds to provide nutritious food, medication, school supplies, and medication to children living in refugee camps.

After the event, Tima met with TRAC’s team. “Every time I tell my story it is very painful,” she said in tears, “I need at least a month of recovery after I give a speech like this.” But she keeps doing it for one reason: people need to hear her story and be inspired to make a change. Tima has used her painful experience to inspire strength and hope. Let’s embrace that hope and follow her example as we respond to the global refugee crisis.

If you are eager to get involved and to hear these words from her own mouth, consider attending tomorrow’s fundraiser. Tima is also in need of volunteers to help her with the “Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation.” To hear more about this opportunities, please email trac.twu@gmail.com

 

-Emilio Rodríguez, TRAC’s journalist.

TRAC Update

Hello friends of TRAC!

Thank you so much for your support throughout the past four months. Each one of you has contributed to the development of TRAC and I am continually inspired by the generosity of the TWU community. Since our kick-off event on February 2, TRAC has grown in unimaginable ways. Summer break has provided an appreciated opportunity to reflect on the journey of TRAC, and I am excited to share with you what has taken place. I hope it encourages you and represents the tangible impact that your support has made in the lives of those who need it.

Sponsorship

Since TRAC began, our main project has been to sponsor a refugee family in their first year of resettlement through a partnership with MCC. Initially, we intended to sponsor a family of six which required a fundraising goal of $34,000. We set out with big plans for how to raise these funds, but the generosity of our community blew everyone away. Throughout our initial months, we were engaged in a variety of events. These included our Kick-Off Event, a TRAC Night at TWU volleyball games, the Night of Stories, TRAC Day at a Pole Vault meet, Voices for TRAC, Fort-Printing Co.’s Launch, and a Year-End Party. These events allowed us to reach new audiences and to grow closer to our goal.

Another component of our fundraising efforts has included selling merchandise. We started off with an initial order of 22 t-shirts, and ended the semester having sold 376 pieces of merchandise, including t-shirts, hoodies, crewnecks, and baseball t-shirts! Every single piece of merchandise was hand folded and each order was personalized by name with a TRAC tag. All of the profits from these sales went directly to supporting our family.

Finally, we received constant donations through our online donation registry. Generous individuals contributed for no benefit, and we are so thankful to each and every one of our donors.

The money raised from events, merchandise sales, and donations has resulted in a total of $26,463.43. While this total is below our initial goal of $34,000, consultation with members of the refugee services community and other sponsorship groups led TRAC to change our family size from six to four. This was done to ensure that we provide resources responsibly and effectively and act within our means as a first-time sponsorship group. This smaller family size decreases the originally quoted financial sponsorship requirement, resulting in an amount which has been exceeded after raising $26,463.43.

Reaching and exceeding our goal is a major accomplishment for all of us, and I want to thank each of you that has made this possible. This milestone means that we are moving forward with the sponsorship process and we are working hard to be prepared for the family we will be blessed to do life with.

Volunteering

The volunteering component of TRAC is something we are excited to see continual growth in. We have developed relationships with a variety of fantastic organizations doing work locally and globally. These organizations include the Mennonite Central Committee, the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre, The Kurdi Foundation, KinBrace, PuCKS, Inasmuch, the Refugee and Immigrant Welcome Centre, and New Hope Community Services. We have supported these groups through teaching English, providing childcare, facility maintenance, fundraising and event support, and advertising. We have also connected with other sponsorship groups in the area and are moving towards providing friendship and English support for refugee children. To date, we have had approximately thirty volunteers working with different organizations.

This summer we will continue to have a variety of volunteer opportunities available for TWU students. We are also continuing to seek new partnership opportunities to volunteer locally. Whether you are local or live around the world there are options for you, if you are interested email us at volunteer.trac.twu@gmail.com.

Dinner Photo.jpgTeam Update

Our team has continued to grow since TRAC formed last fall. Each new addition is a talented, caring, and intelligent individual that is ready and eager to contribute their time to mobilize the TWU community in response to the refugee crisis. In total, there are 13 members of our leadership committee with varying responsibilities. We are looking forward to adding first years and others to the group in the fall.

 

The Future

Moving forward, TRAC is hoping to set-up a scholarship for students who arrived in Canada as refugees. While there is a lot of preliminary work yet to be done, we are hoping to arrange this project to keep the TWU community involved in fundraising and refugee relief.

With purpose and passion,

Jordan and the TRAC team

7 things you must know about the refugee crisis

1. Why is it a “global” refugee crisis?

Although most attention is put on the Syrian refugee crisis, we as TRAC want to also emphasize that refugees are coming from all over the world. Displacement is a reality in many countries, even in the Americas. Also for this reason, TRAC has decided to sponsor a refugee family without preference to their origin.

In 2015, 53% of the world´s refugees came from three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia, in that order[1]. These are all countries suffering from brutal wars. Refugees are also coming from Sudan, Congo DR, China, Colombia, Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and others[2].

2. What is a displaced person?

The displaced are those who are forced to move from their locality or environment and occupational activities due to a number of factors that include arm conflict, natural disasters, famine, development and economic changes[3]. An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from home according to the United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)[4]. Perhaps the most alarming case is that of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), those who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border. The number of IDPs is hard to measure, they are not eligible for protection under the same international system as refugees, and don´t have a single international body entrusted with their protection and assistance.

3. What is a refugee?

A refugee is a person who is outside their own country, has a well-founded fear of persecution due to his/ her race, religion, nationality, member of a particular social group or political opinion, and is unable or unwilling to return[5] . To be considered a refugee, one must be outside their home country and be recognized under a refugee status. Among the nearly 65.3 displaced people in the world, 21.3 million of them have a refugee status, over half of whom are under the age of 18[6]. Although the refugees themselves are already a motive of concern, one must also think about the millions that are Internally Displaced and/or are not even recognized as refugees, and thus are not eligible for the same refugee protection.

*I must add that there are several shortcomings on this original definition of “refugee” taken after the 1951 convention on the Status of Refugees. These include the fact that people fleeing environmental conditions or natural disasters cannot receive refugee protection.  Regional instruments such as the “OAU convention” and the “Cartagena Declaration on Refugees” have expanded the term. For more information on the issue please visit this article from the LSE

4. Who grants the refugee status?

Governments and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCF) have the primary responsibility of determining who is considered a refugee under international, regional or national law, through a legal process called Refugee Status Determination (RSDs)[7]. In 2013, UNHCR remained responsible for implementing the RSD procedure in more than 50countries. In another 20 countries, UNHCR conducted RSDjointly with, or parallel to, the governments[8]

5. How many refugees have come to Canada?

From November 4, 2015 to January 29,, 2017 Canada has received 40,081 refugees[9]. These come under three different categories: Government Assisted Refugees account for 54% of these refugees, Privately Sponsor refugees for 36% and Blended Visa Office-referred refugees for 10%. British Columbia receives approximately 1664 refugees each year. In 2015, B.C. received refugees from 17 different countries.

6. Under what category does TRAC fall under?

Government Assisted refugees are those referred to the government by the UNHCR and supported financially by the government for up to one year. Privately Sponsored Refugees are those that are sponsored by a group of people in Canada who volunteer to help them adjust to life in Canada, which includes financial support for up to one year, and emotional and social support that goes further.

Blended Visa Office-Referred Refugee is essentially a mix of both: the UNHCR matches refugees identified for resettlement with private sponsors in Canada. The Government provides 6 months of financial support, and the private sponsors provide for other 6 months, as well as emotional and social support from the day they come to Canada. TRAC is a sponsorship group working under this category.

7. What does the Bible say about refugees?

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God”- Leviticus 19, 33-34 (NIV).

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt”- Exodus 23:9

“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty”- Malachi 3:5

These are just a few Bible verses among the many that treat the topic of the foreigner or the neighbour, and how we ought to love them. TRAC firmly believes that it is our Christian duty to care about the refugees in the world. One of the ways we show our love is by learning more about what these people are going through.

After knowing about the issues, we can pray, raise awareness, and act. Therefore, I thank you for reading through this post. Please, be encouraged to research more about this topic following the links below, and if you want to be involved and contribute, make sure to contact us. Let´s keep spreading awareness and love.

God Bless,

Emilio Rodríguez

 

 

References:

[1] UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] UNESCO, “Displaced person/Displacement”. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/social-and-human-sciences/themes/international-migration/glossary/displaced-person-displacement/

[4] UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”. http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[5] UNHCR, “Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees” http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf

[6]UNHCR, “Figures at a glance”.  http://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

[7]UNCHR, “Refugee Status Determination”. http://www.unhcr.org/refugee-status-determination.html

[8] Ibid.

[9] Government of Canada, “Refugees”. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/milestones.asp

Our Volunteering Experience

“Helping people because people matter” is the motto of the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre (MEFC) . Its founders, Adel & Layla Masoud, are two of the most inspiring Christians I have met. They have their own story of hardship, fleeing from Kuwait and coming to Canada in 1997. Now, they feel called to share the love of God with newcomers by giving them a warm welcome to Canada.

The MEFC is a place where “Arabs can meet together, learn from one another, and help one another”. The visitors are mainly Arab newcomers, many of them refugees, who find in the center a safe space to build friendship and to receive help in a wide range of areas that go from job searching to assistance with Canadian tax forms.

Although the center is focused in Arabic culture, visitors from other backgrounds also attend the center. In the same way, volunteers are welcomed regardless of their cultural background, knowledge of Arabic culture, or proficiency in Arab—although any of these are great assets.

Several members of our community have been serving regularly in the MEFC this semester: Noah Bradley, Mary Kate Looby, Andrea Rodriguez, Amy Saya, Sarah Kazanowski, Jordan Koslowsky and myself. It feels like we have being welcomed into a new family were Layla, Adel, the whole staff and visitors of the center have received us with open arms offering their friendship.

We have volunteered by giving ESL classes, playing with the kids while their parents are studying, distributing the donations received, participating in padlocks and community meals and helping out with various chores in the center. Most importantly, we have met amazing people from very different backgrounds and unique stories who are seeking for a new life in Canada.

Layla expressed her interest in having volunteers that come to the center for the right reasons: to share the love of Christ, offer their time in friendship and service for others, and treat the visitors with dignity and affection. We as volunteers leave behind the stereotypes, the “us versus them” mentality, or any “hero complex” that hinders the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts, and approach our service with humbleness and willingness to learn from them as well.

Noah Bradley, a 4th year TWU student, was our most active volunteer. He shares his experience while serving as an ESL teacher this semester:

The most valuable thing about teaching English at the MEFC was seeing the enthusiasm and laughter of the students while they were learning. Without those two things, I think the personal connection wouldn’t have been made. You could clearly see that they were happy to be there. I think that gave everyone joy and a special connection.

Joy, friendship, warmth and generosity are some of the things that make the MEFC a home for everyone that visits.

If you want to be a part of the Middle Eastern Friendship Center, here´s your chance! We need volunteers from the TWU community who are staying in the Lower Mainland for the summer and that feel call to give part of their time to share the love of Christ with this newcomers to Canada. Please email tractwu@gmail.com to get more information about your options.

-Emilio Rodríguez

As Christ Loves, We Should Love

March 15 marked the 6th year anniversary of the conflict that is still raging in Syria.  Since then, there have been over 5 million people who have fled the country.  Over the years, this refugee crisis has appeared in other countries like Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia, among others.  Overall, about 11 million people have had to leave their homes to survive.  Thousands of these refugees die on their way to safer countries.  Many of those who have made it to safety have not been integrated into the society of their new home.

sanliurfa-syrians-getty

My name is Kristen Jones and I am a second year studying Applied Linguistics.  I was oblivious to what was happening with the refugee crisis until recently.  This year, I began to pay attention to what people were saying about this world crisis and I was ashamed that I had ignored this incredibly heart-breaking problem.  As I learned more about the crisis, my heart broke more and more.

I attended Missions Fest in January and sat in on a couple of seminars that spoke about the refugee crisis.  The statistics and stories and experiences were a wake-up call that I desperately needed.  This world is hurting, and I was doing nothing.

This semester, I felt like God was gently pushing me to do more with my time.  I had a new passion to invest myself in people.  And then I heard about TRAC.  I joined the team mid-March, and have been abundantly blessed through it.  God has given me a love for people that I’ve never met, and has handed me an opportunity to help those who need it.  I have learned that as believers, it is our job to notice and care for those who are hurting.  Not just because they need it, but also because through our service they can see God’s love.  Often the best way to share the gospel with someone is through loving them.

Rather than have a specific job on the TRAC team, I fill in where I am needed.  I love listening to people and walking with them through life, and I can’t wait to do this with the refugee family that our team will be sponsoring.  I am excited to work with my team to share Christ’s love and compassion for this family.

I encourage you to continue to read about the refugee crisis.  Don’t let it be good enough for you to just know that there is one.  Learn about it and let the words of people’s stories sink in and register deep in your heart.  I implore you, if you are a Christ follower, to learn more about this issue; and when you know more, let God use you to serve those in need.  We are each called to follow Christ’s example of caring for those in need.

-Kristen Jones

A Story to Remember

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been passionate about storytelling. I love how you’re brought into another person’s life and can share their experiences and feel what they’ve felt through a well told story. Unfortunately, many stories don’t have happy endings, and I’ve been impacted by the many heartbreaking stories coming from around the world, but specifically the Middle East and Asia.

1-Burma-KWO

My first experience with a refugee crisis was when I was around 10 years old when the Karen came from Myanmar (Burma) into Canada. I didn’t really understand a lot about the situation at the time, but I was happy to help in whatever way I could. At the time, the way in which I could help best was through basketball. Once a week, we’d get a group of guys together both from Canada and Myanmar and we’d just play basketball and hang out together afterwards and talk for a bit. Knowing some of their gruesome stories made seeing us all smiling together playing basketball all the more rewarding.

When I heard the stories that Jordie (TRAC’s Director) told after coming back from the Middle East, I knew that I wanted to help share these stories and the stories of others who were passionate about the refugee crisis. I have a passion for videography and graphic design, and I’m very excited that I can use my skills for such a great cause while glorifying God.

It has been so encouraging to see the support that TRAC has gotten from everyone in and around the TWU community. And after seeing how successful the Karen community has been after such a short period of time, I’m hopeful for the family that we will be bringing in.

Thank you all for your continual prayer and support. I look forward to the day when we can look back and tell this story that is unfolding right now as a message of hope and inspiration for other refugees.

-Matt Hayashi