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

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

Fuelled by Love

Canada is a multi-cultural nation. This is why I didn’t think the refugee crisis was important for me to be educated on because I thought it wasn’t too hard to apply for refugee status within Canada. But the fact is that Canada has the space and resources to have more refugees and yet we haven’t increased the amount of people that we are welcoming into the country.

syria-child-refugees5Psalm 82:3 says “Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.”

As Christians, I feel that it is our mission to help those when we are given the chance to get involved. In December I went on a missions trip to Mexico and saw the poverty of a country that is so connected to us. I came home with an ache in my heart and felt the need to get involved in something that would make a difference for people who couldn’t be heard by the masses.

 

I saw TRAC as my opportunity to make a difference for people on the other side of the world while I could still focus on being a student. I’ve always had this desire to get involved in something that feels important to me. After I attended the initial launch event, I felt this need pressed on my heart that I had to get involved in what TRAC was doing. I talked to Jordan right away and expressed this and he welcomed me to the team. Now in my role as merchandise coordinator, I have the opportunity to contribute my time and skills to a cause that I am passionate about. This is why TWU is so special. Here we can adopt a cause that our whole community can get behind.

-Miranda Friesen

disPLACE: Refugee Stories in Their Own Words

disPLACE: Refugee Stories in Their Own Words is a TWU production that shares the real-life experiences of refugees coming to Canada, in their own words. From Mennonite immigrants who fled Europe after World War II, to the current global refugee crisis, the stories in disPLACE shine a light on the bonds that tie all of us together. Five actors transform into multiple characters in this unforgettable journey, knit together by original music and verbatim testimony. The show premiered in November but is being performed again from March 2-5. On Thursday, March 2 disPLACE is showing at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford at 2 and 7 p.m. Partial proceeds from this performance will go towards TRAC’s effort to sponsor a refugee family.

TRAC is excited to partner with members of the TWU community that are also working to make a difference in the global refugee crisis.

Experiences of People Involved

One cast member wrote:

What if war raged in your country? What if bombs fell on your street? What if you were separated from your family in order to survive? disPLACE is a common ground where we can listen to the true, heartfelt stories of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Columbia, Ukraine, and the Congo. The words are verbatim (directly from the refugees themselves) and each song and scene on stage was created by the ensemble as they processed and were inspired by the true stories that they encountered. As a member of the cast, it is an honour to share these stories of real people and to understand a glimmer of what it is like to be in their shoes. The power of vulnerability can be life changing and each cast member has been affected in some way through this process. Please come and be a part of disPLACE.

Angela Konrad, Director of disPLACE wrote, “Response to the show when it premiered on campus in November was phenomenal. So many people talked about how it changed their perspective on refugees. So many people wanted to know how they can help welcome refugees. Working on this show was life changing for all of us and meeting these new Canadians and hearing of their courage and resilience was such an inspiration. It is an honour and privilege to bring their stories to life.”

displace

disPLACE shares the experiences of refugees coming to Canada, in their own words.

Showtimes

Thursday, March 2 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Mennonite Heritage Museum, Abbotsford

(partial proceeds to TRAC refugee sponsorship)

Friday, March 3 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at TWU Richmond

Sunday, March 5 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. at The Cultch, Vancouver

More info at http://humanitascentre.org/darkglasstheatre/displace/

 

The Logo

The TRAC logo tells two stories: one of the gravity of the refugee experience, and the other of hope.

the-key

When I first entered the Aida Refugee camp in Bethlehem, I noticed a gate at one entrance with a massive metal key perched on top. As I looked at it, I was informed that it is the symbol for the inhabitants of the refugee camp. As the story goes, when they or their relatives fled their homes in 1948, they took their keys with them, anticipating a chance to return. Nearly 70 years later, the opportunity hasn’t come, and perhaps never will. This key signifies the reality of refugees around the world, who may never return to their homes and may never return to the lives they once lived. It is a symbol of tragic loss. It is also a symbol of unquenchable hope.

As a sponsorship group, Trinity Refugee Awareness Campaign anticipates the day when we can provide a family with a new key. A key that represents a new life, full of new opportunities.

90 years ago, my great grandparents arrived in Canada after fleeing from the Soviet Union. My family history, like millions of other Canadians, parallels those around the globe who are currently fleeing conflict. Because of the safety provided in Canada, the lives of my great-grandparents were transformed, and subsequent generations now live in a new reality. Now, as Canadians, we enjoy and contribute to the societal fabric of this peaceful nation.

We hope that the key we provide will do the same for the family we sponsor. We hope that, when their great-grandchildren look back on the journey of their family, they too will feel the hope, anticipation, and possibility of that very first key.

-Jordan Koslowsky