A month ago, three human beings were in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Now they are in Canada, and I am part of the team helping to take care of them. It has been wonderful to watch Canada welcome them.

This begins back in 2015. Refugees were flooding out of Syria because of the civil war there. The previous Canadian government’s callous resistance to helping distressed many. Groups all over Canada began raising money and seeking to sponsor refugees. Among them was my spouse, Ducky Sherwood, with some friends and colleagues. A new Canadian government was elected in late 2015. It opened the doors, and during 4 months in late 2015-early 2016, more than 25,000 refugees were settled. By January 2017, that number rose to over 40,000 refugees in 350 communities across Canada. (Source: government of Canada.)

Ducky Sherwood’s blog post, Refugee sponsorship (2018-03-11), lays out good summaries of the government programs through which our team worked, and of “our particular experience”. She describes a bit of how our team came together, and why we weren’t assigned a family to sponsor during 2016 and 2017. She gives an (appropriately) veiled description of “our family”, and of how our team works to support them.

The observation I would add to Ducky’s blog is that this experience has moved dozens of people to be the most generous, welcoming versions of themselves. Time and again, people donated clothing, pointed us to support, loaned their truck, “voluntold” their kid to be friendly to “our” family’s kid, did work, ran errands, and got the family good deals. It is a privilege to see so many people being so wonderful. “Our family”, for their part, are very grateful for all this support. There isn’t a practical way to convey their gratitude back to specific donors, but it is real.

Ducky and I immigrated to Canada from the US a bit over 12 years ago. Unlike “our family”, we had the luxury of coming from a good situation, and of being able to move due to preference rather than dire need. With one foot in each country, I can clearly compare how each country, and the aggregate of its people, have responded to the refugee crisis. Canada and its people are truly stepping up. You see it in the government programs, which give us a way to put our money and our energy at the service of refugees we don’t know. You see it in the cashier at the swimming pool who says to “our” kid, “Welcome to Canada”, and explains how to get discounts on swimming lessons. The US has values expressed by the Statue of Liberty, and an openness to immigration over time. Today, Canada lives those values more truly than the US does.

For me, the bottom line is: a month ago, three human beings were in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Today, they are permanent residents of Canada, with a year-long lease on a modest but adequate flat. Money is raised to cover their groceries and hydro. They have clothes. They have a habesha community close by. The kid starts school next week. Mom and Dad start English classes soon after. They have a good start on a new life. They are welcome here. Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen.