A delicious Middle Eastern meal, a free-of-charge shopping spree, quilts handmade with love and stitched with the words welcome to Canada! by Quilts for Refugees, a hands-on toy-making workshop by Operation Sock Monkey, a gift bag put together by volunteers from local CIBC branches, and a group of volunteers at CultureLink’s Donation Distribution Centre (our free thrift store for refugees) waiting with warm welcomes and hospitality—this was what 24 Syrian women experienced at a special International Women’s Day event at CultureLink. This women-to-women, sisters-with-sisters celebration—an afternoon of friendship, pampering, and learning—was heartwarmingly put together with the help of the Rexdale Women’s Centre, Happy Sew Lucky, CIBC, and Operation Sock Monkey.
During the event, we served our 300th refugee family since the beginning of the year: a mom with her little baby!
Around noon on March 10th, Rexdale Women’s Centre transported these women to CultureLink by school bus. It was raining hard and after a wonderful buffet lunch, we changed our plans from visiting High Park to having a Sock Monkey workshop at CultureLink, thanks to our super volunteer, Diana Brugos, who is always willing to jump in and help anytime with anything. Diana is the Canadian representative of the international charity Operation Sock Monkey, which donated about 200 sock monkeys, $500, and three free workshops for Syrian refugees. This was a great alternative to walking in the park; women of all cultures enjoy and are skilled at handicrafts. The proof is in the monkeys!
Speaking of crafting, look at the beautiful quilts that Berene Campbell, of Quilts for Refugees, brought to this event—such workmanship, such thoughtfulness, and, most of all, such love and caring stitched into each one! When Berene said, “We understand. You came here with nothing but a broken heart. We hope we quilters can help to patch it with love,” a couple of Syrian women were wiping away tears. These quilts will surely keep them warm and give them comfort for years to come in this country known for cold weather.
Who doesn’t like to shop for free? Filling their baskets with baby clothes, diapers, and personal care products without worrying about cost was another real treat on Women’s Day. Arshiah Ali, our donation centre volunteer supervisor, and her group of super-efficient and super-friendly volunteers provided these 24 women with a pleasant shopping experience.
Loaded with gifts and new friends, the women left CultureLink with big smiles on their faces. We thank all our partners and volunteers for making this day special for these families. It certainly does take a village to make refugees feel at home!
By Elizabeth Rooney