707. Sharing your Christmas Dinner with a Newcomer Refugee Family – 2016

I’m finding a lot of interest in Torontonians looking for a refugee family to share their Christmas dinner. More resources are available this year for hosts. Last year, in response to a query about it, I could only find one helpful agency.

This year, the City of Toronto has published a list of agencies offering to help Syrian refugees. Some of these are assisting other nationalities as well. I don’t want to limit this to Syrians.

This year I’ve queried several of these agencies and people with experience with newcomers. I wondered about the problems of different languages, of transportation from homes to the dinners, and of diet especially Halal for Muslims. I worried about the feeling of obligation on the part of the refugee guests to contribute to the meal and occasion when they have no resources to do so.

Here are some answers. One respondent wrote that the mother in one group always wanted to serve food. The sponsors become concerned about that as the family is on a very tight budget. “We have started to bring snacks to share when we visit. As you know hospitality is a strong value in Middle Eastern cultures.  Presents might be an issue.”

We also learned that one group’s male Muslim drinks alcohol. The sponsors learned that “this is actually quite common, so some of the perceptions we have of how strict a Muslim person may be about food and drink may need to be checked out with the persons involved.”

Lifeline Syria: “Sharing a Christmas dinner with a newcomer “is an interesting question. I think that the best way to go about this is for people interested in inviting Syrian families to a dinner to post the invitation on a Facebook Page that some of our sponsor teams created called Ryerson Lifeline Syria Sponsor Teams Homepage. Teams/sponsors access this page often, and they are the ones who have direct communication with the families they’ve sponsored. There are also many other Syrian refugee facebook groups that you could search and access. 

Thank you for your support to help resettle Syrian newcomers to the GTA.” Kerith 

Together Project: “Hosting a dinner sounds like a wonderful initiative.  At present, Together Project matches Government-Assisted Refugee newcomers with volunteer Welcome Groups for friendship and settlement support.  These Welcome Group volunteers undergo a vulnerable sector screening and are interviewed regarding their suitability for working with refugees. They also receive capacity building training to better serve refugee newcomers.  Finally, each Welcome Group is assigned a Cultural Ambassador to assist with translation and cultural sensitivity. 

I think it would be difficult for us to set up one-time holiday dinners for our newcomer families.  To further your initiative, you may want to reach out directly to a settlement agency like COSTI Immigrant Services (www.costi.org). If any of your volunteers are interested in starting a Welcome Group, please let me know.  I sincerely thank you for your interest in Together Project. (http://www.togetherproject.ca/).” Anna Hill.

I was delighted to get an email from Tracey whose original query last year started it all for us.

Tracey: “Thanks for suggesting Sojourn House. We had a lovely Colombian family of three come for Christmas dinner, a couple with a 13 year old son. My aunt picked them up from Sojourn House and brought them to our house in High Park. Before long we were all comfortable with each other and chatting. They spoke a little English and I speak some Spanish, so we managed just fine. We had bought them some gifts, including hats, gloves and scarves, as it was their first full winter in Canada. And we’d asked ahead of time what their son needed, so along with some games & clothes, we got him a small computer table. The family was extremely appreciative – not just of the gifts, but of the whole experience. It was their first time eating turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce or trying Christmas pudding. They loved everything. And we got to hear about Christmas traditions in Colombia, which was really interesting. It was also a little sad, as they talked about being homesick, especially on Christmas. I can only imagine how tough that must be. 

Every now and then I check in with the wife, to see how they’re all doing. They’ve recently moved into their own apartment, which I’m really happy about.

To anyone who has room for a few extra plates around the table, I’d definitely recommend doing this – reaching out and making that first Christmas for a family in a new country, a little more joyful.”

You can learn more about Sojourn House which is at 101 Ontario Street. Its website is: http://www.sojournhouse.org/ . If we hear from other agencies offering hosting resources, we will post their answers below.

Other Resources:

A list of Middle Eastern supermarkets are on our last year’s blog: https://www.torontomulticulturalcalendar.com/2015/12/02/hosting-a-family-of-newcomers-like-syrian-refugees-at-christmas-2015/.

Introducing refugees on a tight budget to our flea markets might be a good idea. See: https://www.torontomulticulturalcalendar.com/2015/12/17/572-mississauga-flea-market-for-refugees-december-2015/.

For good quality Middle Eastern-style clothing they might prefer, there’s Hijab Fashions, 421 Nugget Ave #5, Scarborough. www.hijabfashions.com/.

Kaamilah Boutique, 3031 Markham Road, Unit 32. http://www.kaamilahonline.com/

Al-Israh, 2066 Lawrence Ave E, Scarborough. http://www.islamicsuperstore.net/

Modah, 5120 Dixie Road, Unit 12, Mississauga. www.modah.ca. Co-op with 16 vendors.

Please let us know of other resources. ruthlormalloy@gmail.com. Please share this blog with others who might be interested. Ruth

Image Copyright ©2016 Ruth Lor Malloy

Image Copyright ©2016 Ruth Lor Malloy

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