Farah* rolls over in her wheelchair and eagerly greets us into her home.
The housing co-op in SE Vancouver is simple and spacious with a dining table and couches for guests who do not prefer to sit on the rug. Running around the house are two girls, Azita and Benafsha, the young daughters of Farah's good friend, Hadiah.
Meeting these children full of life and hope, you would never know the struggles they have overcome. Azita is excited to show off fluent English over lunch as we enjoy each other's company. She proudly lists her dreams and career aspirations, and offers to teach us Farsi.
Her intelligence and fearlessness remind me that children are the future of refugee families living in Canada.
This weekend was an eye opener for me. As part of Tenth Church's first Justice Journey with refugees, the team and I had spent the weekend in a local welcome home for those who are new to our city, coming from war and political turmoil. They are carrying baggage we will never fully grasp and we must be culturally sensitive when serving these vulnerable people. Not only are these refugee families fleeing horrific situations, they are often being welcomed into their new life with neglect and disrespect.
Farah’s story begins with her brother who was shot and killed in the war back home. In an attempt to save him, she was also shot. Paralyzed, she now lives bound to a wheelchair.
The trauma she experienced is never going to disappear from her life. Upon entering Canada, Farah was placed in a social service agency home which restricted her mobility and ability to leave the house. So the trauma and emotions of her past experiences resurfaced. Farah suffers daily with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This complex issue can take years to overcome and the triggers are often hidden.
Hadiah also experienced great difficulty when she arrived in Canada with her two daughters this past October. They walked across the border from the US and showed up on Canadian soil. Anticipating a warm welcome, they were greeted with disregard. Mother and daughters were moved from shelter to shelter in Vancouver without the support and resources they needed, living in tiny spaces amongst addicts in the Downtown Eastside.
Clutching her five and ten year old girls, Hadiah spent months desperately asking for help. They were not granted permanent residency and could not apply for medical coverage. When Azita developed excruciating tooth pain, Hadiah needed to come up with $2000 to get dental help.
Farah, Hadiah, Azita, and Benafsha are now well supported by Journey Home Community and Tenth Church. The two pieces of metal nestled between Azita's teeth when she flashes her adorable smile are a reminder of God's providence at work in this family.
It was an incredible blessing to be part of Tenth's first Justice Journey to refugees this past weekend.
*all the names in this story have been changed for protection of privacy