Submitted by Creston Refugee Committee
In the Creston Valley, it can be difficult to comprehend the number of displaced peoples in our world, those who must flee their homes or country to escape persecution, war or violence. The United Nations estimates a staggering 89 million people are presently displaced worldwide, with more than 27 million of these officially recognized as refugees.
For 43 years, a committed group of locals has worked to help some of these displaced families. Formed in 1979, the Creston Refugee Committee (CRC) is a non-religious volunteer group which sponsors families under the authority of its Sponsorship Agreement Holder, the United Church of Canada.
The CRC commits to financially assisting a refugee family for one year. Volunteers help family members with documentation, housing, job searches, medical care, education, citizenship applications, social and cultural support. Many of the newcomers arrive in Canada without adequate language skills, so the work of volunteer tutors is also very important.
The CRC has successfully brought 100 refugees to our valley during its 43 year history – including families from Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma or Myanmar, Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Kurds from Iraq, and Syria. Some of these families remain in the valley and are now successful, active community
members. Others have moved to larger centres for employment, higher education or other opportunities. Many of the sponsored children have graduated from colleges and universities and now have professional careers.
The most recently CRC sponsored group, a Myanmar family of eight, arrived in Cres- ton in June after long travel delays due to the pandemic and a worldwide surge in the number of refugees. In the months since their arrival, the grateful family has formed friendships with CRC members and others and settled well into their new Canadian way of life.
The father and adult son are now employed, the school age kids are progressing well and both parents are working hard to improve their English skills. Teenager Mary San recently competed in our town’s Reach for the Mic singing contest, making it to the final. Her younger siblings have enjoyed skate- boarding, making new friends and trick or treating for the first time. Now the family is learning about daily life with snow and the traditions of the holiday season in Canada.
CRC is preparing to sponsor a new family. This process can take several years and fundraising is a key component. The Com- mittee gratefully acknowledges the past and ongoing support of community members and businesses. Donations of money, household items and clothing, time or talent are always appreciated.
Committee members find relationships with these newcomers to our valley rewarding. In the words of one tutor, Margaret: “When I volunteered to tutor an adult refugee, I focused on what I could offer, what I could teach. I was quickly humbled, realizing I too was the student. I learned much about resilience in the face of hardship, about the strength of family and the power of optimism and hard work.”
If you’d like to get involved, please reach out at crestonrefugeecommittee.com via the contact link or by messaging the committee’s Facebook page.