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Mim Wickett is Tenth's Refugee Support Co-ordinator and is a friend to many. All names in this story have been changed to respect confidentiality.

At the best of times, newly-arrived refugees are vulnerable to social isolation and lack of support services, all while coping with significant anxiety and trauma. And in the current context of physical distancing, with the doors of the city essentially closed, it has the potential to be disastrous to at-risk asylum seekers.

The core of the Tenth refugee support ministry is our twice-monthly community dinner where a gathering of people of various ages, cultures, and faiths meet together to share a meal, celebrate milestones, and provide a network of support. In-person gatherings stopped over a month ago but there was great interest in continuing to meet virtually, so we switched to community “dinners” via Zoom to try and reduce the effects of social isolation.

The results have been quite unexpected. By popular request, we increased the frequency and each week we meet several new attendees who have found this platform to be the ideal way to make new friends and maintain important social lifelines.

Here are some of the stories:     

  • Two young women, Zariah and Amira, arrived in Vancouver a day before the border closed, knowing only the phone number of a Tenth-supported refugee. From this connection the women found a safe place to stay at a Tenth member’s home, receiving groceries and necessities during their 14-day self-isolation period while linking up virtually with a whole host of new friends at the Zoom gatherings. It is likely that they have more Canadian friends now than many newcomers have even a few years after arrival.
  • Laila arrived several months ago with her 3 young children but due to the challenges of transportation with the kids, she found it impossible to come to the dinners in person. She’s been grateful for the opportunity to stay connected to her new friends in the Tenth community and enjoy some adult conversation.
  • Greatly respected as wise elders and honorary grandparents, many of our faithful ministry partners from Killarney Park MB Church have been able to take a break from doing the dishes and cleaning the church after a host of hungry kids descend for community dinners. Online gatherings have provided a safer way to continue these important relationships.
  • Fatima is 15 years old, and arrived in Canada alone. The foster family she lives with is hesitant to let her take the long bus ride in the evening to the dinners, but now she’s made new friends thanks to this unexpected gift of virtual connection.
  • Ahmed wasn’t familiar with the origins of Easter, but online services at Tenth were a way to understand the celebration in a way that was comfortable for him.

Although we all miss the amazing spread of ethnic food that we enjoy together, it seems that meeting online may actually be accessible to a wider group of people looking for contact and support.

Over the weekend was the beginning of Ramadan, and during this month of fasting Muslims will find it difficult to be without friends and family to eat with after sundown each night. We’ve moved our weekly online gathering to 10 pm as a result. More unexpected bonuses? Social events in pyjamas!

Mim Wickett

P.S. Special request: Moving school to an online platform has made it difficult for many refugee families without computers at home. Donations of laptops would be very welcome at this time. If you are able to help, please email