Many of our families have now been with us for close to six months. In this time, they have settled in, the kids are in school, the parents are learning English—life has developed a routine. This is when we start to talk about finding work.
We recently met with a job placement expert who told us it’s a six-month process to get people into the job market (including resume building, skills clarification, and language acquisition). When I heard that, my heart sank—six months is a long stretch.
One of our residents is a Syrian father who has been desperately wanting work. After the meeting, one of our volunteers walked with him to a nearby autobody shop. Within 15 minutes, he was hired to wash and wax cars, vacuum interiors and trunks, and polish chrome. The owner of the shop was an immigrant himself who had moved to Canada from Eastern Europe 25 years ago. When asked about our friend's struggles with English, the owner replied in a thick accent, "You think mine is any good? He'll learn on the job just like I did!"
Achmad is thrilled to have found work. His wife and children are so proud of him. Sometimes all it takes to succeed is to have someone believe in you. I wanted to share this story with you so you can see how your support of New Hope helps refugees like Achmad. If you're able, please consider making a gift to New Hope this Christmas, and help us continue to make a difference in people's lives.
Can I begin with a story?
It was during the month of Ramadan—when our Muslim residents are fasting during the day and refraining from most external activity—that one of the families invited me to drink tea with them. As we sat and talked about life, the wife asked in broken English if she could tell me her story.
As I listened, she shared with me that two years ago, in her home country, she had watched a video and it had turned her heart toward Jesus. I affirmed her with a gentle smile and looked inquisitively towards her husband. He threw his hands up and said, “Not me! I'm still Muslim."
We talked about what had happened in their home country. He is a moderate man, well educated, and accustomed to living with the tension between modern ways and traditional cultural practices. As such, he was supportive of his wife’s decision. His family, on the other hand, was not. At first, they pressured him to ‘get her in line.’ When he defended her choice, they warned him in a threatening tone that his child would ‘grow up crooked.’ Being a man of action, he made the difficult decision to leave his homeland to spare his family from religious persecution. And so, they came to Canada where they could have a fresh start at life.
They’re now living with us in Surrey, where they’re rebuilding their life in a one-bedroom apartment. Learning English is paramount to the husband as he knows what it takes to get ahead in Canada. I have confidence he'll do it. I have a hunch that in six to nine months, his family will no longer be living with us because they will have graduated and gotten on with the process of rebuilding their life.
We are nowhere near the end of the story on this one. But here's another dimension. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke in a nearby church. Guess who was sitting in the second row because they had been invited to church? You guessed it.
Presently, we are working on helping our residents with their English language acquisition. Some of them know some English upon arrival, so it's really about fine-tuning their skills. Because they have a good start on the language, I imagine that job acquisition is in their near future. Other residents aren't in the same place. One family has been living in a Kenyan refugee camp for the past seven years and they have had very little external help. None of their children have been attending school. I think their greatest obstacle is fear—fear of making a mistake, fear of being judged—so in their mind, it's better to say nothing. Our approach is very non-judgmental. In addition to formal ESL classes during the day, we do three tutorials a week with volunteer help. We also do a homework club twice a week with the children who are in school (and growing like weeds).
I mentioned that one of our families graduated in late August. They moved to be closer to their employment. Another family left on September 30th. Their family of seven (mom, dad, and five kids) had struggled in a two-bedroom apartment, and they felt ready to move out on their own. With the help of their support team, they were able to find a three-bedroom place to put down roots. As a result, we have two new families coming before the end of October.
If your group needs housing for a refugee family, we may have room. It never hurts to call!
Christmas is coming and with it comes year end. We find ourselves thanking God that we have received close to 75% of our needs already. We need to push forward to finish the year end well so we can continue to help families in need. If you are able to give a gift to our year end campaign, we would be delighted. One gracious donor has provided a gift of up to $25,000 promising to match any and all year end donations—this gives you a chance to double your gift! It's easiest to donate by going to our website at www.newhopecs.org, or if you wish to mail a cheque, please send it to:
13478 Hilton Rd
Surrey, BC V3R 5J4
Thank you for your support!
This summer has been one of incredible beginnings for the team at New Hope and for those who, quite quickly, begin to feel more like family than simply newcomers to Canada. Moving from paralysis to productivity means that new beginnings become a regular occurrence, as life in a new country brings with it changes both commonplace and unexpected. Here are a number of those new beginnings that have happened over the summer, and continue to happen as we work together each day at New Hope.
New schools to play at
Every morning there is a bustle of excitement as over a dozen children rush out the door to their new school. We have 15 children under twelve years of age at New Hope, all registered in a nearby Surrey public school. The school has done an amazing job receiving them and figuring out how best to place them in the right class for sake of learning. Just like Canadian children, sometimes not every child seems excited to head out the door in the morning, but by 3:00 in the afternoon there is a huge sense of energy as they arrive home with smiles from their day of learning and play. Are they happy because they went to school? Or is because they have finished school for the day?
New languages to learn
We are in a big push to help with english language acquisition right now. All children are in school and doing famously while most parents attend ESL classes. Each day we do a "homework club" with the kids where they get help with their school work and practice english. Three times a week a number of mothers in the building also meet for english learning (as women). We are starting to do some one-on-one tutoring with adults in the privacy of their apartments as learning is hard for some, and potentially more embarrassing than satisfying, as they face the challenge of a new language. We flex in order for them to succeed.
New stories to be shared
One of our newest residents was a reporter in his homeland and had the misfortune of producing news that was unflattering to a particular group in his country. The group visited his home and threatened he and his family, so he knew that it was time to flee to safety, arriving in Canada in March. Today, he's improving his english and also picking up "barbering/hair cutting" skills because he figures he can make a living with it (media work is out of the question due to language issues). He's just finishing his training course and has offered hair cuts to everyone in the building!
And of course, new goodbyes
It's amazing to think it is already happening, but our first family left us at the end of August as they had tuned up their english skills, found jobs, and realized that they needed to live closer to their employment. They had only been with us 6 months but they were ready to go so we prayed with them, hugged them, helped them with luggage and tearfully sent them on their way. Like any graduation, it was a time of mixed emotions.
But also, new hello's
Finally, a new family came last week to take the spot recently vacated by our first graduates. They came to us from Iran and are supported by the Cariboo Road Christian Fellowship in Burnaby. The church team provided start up furniture, food, and beddings and have identified a team of 6-10 individuals who will give 6-10 hours per week to help this new family settle into Canada. We are very excited to support them as they begin their journey of new beginnings as well.
As we continue seeing many new beginnings we encourage you to send us a message, come for a visit, or get together with your friends and family to share with them the exciting things happening at New Hope this year.
With thanks for your support and prayers,
~ Jamey McDonald
When I am talking with friends and they share a situation, I sometimes ask them a question. I say--"if you were successful in this challenge, what would that success look like?" Usually they share a great expectation of how things could work. I am always amazed. Success is a beautiful thing.
When my friend Nafisa came to Canada, the question was there. What will success look like? She arrived from Bangladesh needing a home, just a quiet, safe place. New Hope was able to provide that. Initially all our residents just need safety. For a month or two or even three, their primary need is to settle in to Canada and find stability. It means not worrying about theft of invaders. It means being able to walk down the street without fear of attack. After successfully negotiating quietness, the next challenge was english acquisition. She successfully negotiated that. The next challenge was job acquisition. She managed that. And today, she's doing an amazing job as a head chef at Langara College in Vancouver.
Since March of 2016 New Hope has welcomed 10 families into our residence in Surrey. Presently 3 Syrian families, 2 Iraqi families, 1 family from Ethiopia, 1 from Eritrea, 1 from the Congo, 1 from Honduras, and 1 from Pakistan all make up the New Hope Community residence. We have a total of 55 people living together finding their way in the early days into Canada.
What does success look like for us at New Hope? We like to say it happens when people move from "paralysis to productivity". Our goal is to have our residents, settled, learning english, acquiring job skills, finding confidence...and ultimately employed and contributing to the society of Canada. We think it can happen in the first 12-16 months after arrival. And when they are successful, they are encouraged to move on, establishing their own personal home. They graduate! And when they leave us to establish their own independent lives, it opens up the apartment they lived in to the next refugees family. And we start the process all over again.
Success is a target and you have to identify the target is you want to hit it.
If I work my face off and really over-perform. I can do 50, maybe 60, maybe even 70 hours of work this week. But I can't do more, and I can't keep that pace up. It's unsustainable. If my colleague Bob who works with me puts in overtime and gives us 50 hours, maybe 55 or even 60 hours this week, we can get a lot done. But he has family, and friends, and a personal life...it's unsustainable to keep that up. After that, we are hooped. We can't hire any more folk to do more work because we don't have the financial resources to do more than we do. Hmmmm.
But then, I meet people who want to help. Not for money but for the enjoyment of helping others make progress. They want to show up for a couple of hours and do something contributive. There is "B", who shows up to clean out cluttered cupboards, there is "M" who hauls things to the trash, there is "B" who wants to set up an office and make it efficient, there is "C" who likes to paint. There is "R" who helps to haul furniture (heavy furniture!), there is "R" who just organizes things because it's her gift. There is "T" who likes to plant things. There is "W" who likes to wash things. The list goes on and on. Each one puts in a couple of hours (or more) and at the end of the week, there is the equivalent of a full time worker on site doing multiple tasks.
This past Saturday, 15 young people from the Vancouver Japanese Gospel Church arrived on site at 10 a.m. for a "volunteer work day". Together they vacuumed, washed windows, cleaned toilets, hauled trash, weeded flower beds, trimmed bushes, raked soil, cut out roots, hosed down the sidewalks, cleaned up after themselves, and left with a huge smile and sense of satisfaction in their hearts. Accumulated total? I calculate that we received 75 hours of helpful work on Saturday. Amazing.
So, I come back to the title. Volunteers are the life blood of our organization. People willingly, joyfully, hopefully and meaningfully engage to help and interestingly, find joy and hope and meaning for their contributions. Thanks God!
If you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering with New Hope, check out our Take Action page, call us at 778-394-1191, or email us at
New Hope Community Services Society
13478 Hilton Road
Surrey, BC V3R 5J4