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IBVM Ministry to Refugees and Displaced Persons
Since the late 1970’s, IBVM has been responding to the needs of refugees fleeing countries ravaged by war and famine and seeking a new homeland. In 1979, the world witnessed the mass exodus of thousands of Vietnamese refugees as they left their war torn country in overcrowded boats. At that time the IBVM community in Canada responded by sponsoring a Vietnamese family of seven, including two parents and five children.
As IBVM sisters journeyed with this family they became intimately acquainted with the many challenges and difficulties the newcomers had to endure as they struggled to adjust to their losses, learn a new language, adapt to a new culture and ultimately, manage to achieve the goal of gainful employment and economic independence. There was much joy and satisfaction as the family moved successfully through each stage of the transition to full Canadian citizenship.
IBVM Ministry to Refugees Continues
Since that time IBVM has sponsored many other refugees through private and other kinds of sponsorship. Thus began a rich and rewarding ministry that continues to the present, bringing IBVM many new and cherished friends. IBVM has sponsored refugees fleeing civil strife, war and famine, from various countries of origin including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, Central America and Afghanistan.
Refugee Sponsorship and Resettlement
IBVM Refugee Ministry Coordinator Maria Lanthier considers herself privileged to have accompanied over 50 refugees from seven countries. Over the years Maria has had an opportunity to become acquainted with every aspect of refugee sponsorship and resettlement. Maria is a hardworking and potent advocate for all refugees and displaced persons and has served as an Executive Board Member of Catholic Cross Cultural Services, an agency that provides a variety of services immigrants and refugees in the Greater Toronto area.
Settlement Assistance involves a whole gamut of activities. These include helping newcomers to access health care, social insurance (SIN) numbers, social assistance and other social services. Newcomers often have basic survival needs for clothing, housing and food. Some need to be taught basic survival skills such as how to use the TTC, telephone and internet to find what they need on a day to day basis. Many newcomers need access to language training and where necessary, assistance finding employment. All newcomers appreciate support, someone to care about the losses they have had to endure, someone to cheer them on as they overcome challenges and difficulties, someone to recognize and acknowledge their achievements as they realize their dream of a new beginning here in Canada.
- Learn more about the needs of refugees and displaced persons by visiting these websites.