A joking conversation about cleaning bathrooms during the Ride for Refuge was the beginning of Darlene’s journey as a companion with Open Homes Hamilton.
“We were walking in the Ride for Refuge last year and my friend Mary* was saying what a pain it is to clean four bathrooms. Well, we were walking with Katie [a member of the Open Homes leadership team], who had just been telling us about home hosting for refugee claimants. So I said, ‘You could host! And I’ll be a companion.’”
The spur of the moment idea soon turned into a reality: a group of friends from a Meeting House home church attended a volunteer orientation, submitted their police checks and paperwork, and waited for a call that there was a refugee claimant who was a good fit for Mary’s home.
Now, almost a year later, they’re not only gearing up for another Ride--they’re also actively supporting a young refugee claimant from Ethiopia named Abel*. Mary is the host, and the other members of the group are companions: volunteers who accompany newly arrived refugee claimants and offer friendship and support with everyday settlement needs like bus orientation, job searches, and community connections. Open Homes Hamilton is a Hamilton-based program of IAFR Canada.
Darlene had been volunteering at the Ride’s Hamilton location for years, and was glad there was a way to continue to participate, even during a pandemic. Teams can do the classic bike or walk, or they can choose from a range of “freestyle” options, from sewing to baking to reading to just about anything you can imagine.
“Abel* is a wonderful young man. We’re his 4 mamas--though we try not to mother him too much!” says Darlene.
They’ve helped Abel get connected to community beyond his 4 mamas--from volunteering at a street mission every week to connecting with another young man who was supported by Open Homes Hamilton. That connection is proving invaluable, not only for the friendship of someone closer to his own age, but also for the support that he’s received in understanding the refugee hearing process.
“When he gets stressed out, I tell him, ‘We’re the warriors, we’ll be praying!’” says Darlene.
Last year’s Ride was an opportunity to do something positive in the midst of an overwhelming pandemic, and it led the team down a path they hadn’t imagined--but God had in store for them all the same.
This year, they’ve seen up-close the impact of their fundraising power on refugee claimants, and they’re ready and raring to Ride for Refuge again.
*Some names changed to protect confidentiality.
Our vision is to help people survive and recover from forced displacement. We do this together with the church, both globally, and locally in Canada.