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Refugee Support Team: Interview With Volunteer Karen Ridley

Refugee Support Team: Interview with Volunteer Karen Ridley

Last updated on August 5th, 2018

Q: How did you become involved with the Martin Luther Church Refugee Support Team? What inspired you to volunteer?

A: In the fall of 2015, as the situation in Syria escalated, I read that the Government of Canada had committed to accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. I wanted to make a difference and help these families settle in Canada by volunteering my time and expertise. As a retired school principal with experience in teaching, I wanted to help families improve their English so that they could adjust to life in Canada more quickly. I had heard that the Martin Luther Church was sponsoring Syrian families, so I phoned Iris—that is how it started!

Q: Do you have any memorable incident that made you realize how rewarding it is to volunteer?

A: The Refugee Support Team welcomed a family in December 2015—Salwa, Gems and their daughter Mary. While Mary had a good grasp of English, her parents did not. During the first few months Salwa did not like to leave the house as she could not speak English. After a few months of learning English with me, however, she felt more at ease leaving the house; one day while shopping she even managed to bargain using one of the phrases I had taught her—“No thanks, that’s too expensive!”. She was proud that she was able to purchase the item she wanted at a lower price.

Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the current work of the Refugee Support Team?

A: A couple of weeks ago Greg, the chair of the Refugee Support Team, and I went to meet a neighbour who is trying to bring her mother, father and brother over to Canada from Syria. Greg and I are currently helping with the refugee sponsorship application. The local church communities—MLC and Wesley Mimico United Church for instance—have been very supportive with their donations to the refugee fund.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for individuals who might be interested in getting involved?

A: Volunteering through the Refugee Support Team has been a rewarding experience, and we’ve all become friends with the wonderful families that we welcomed. While the priority for supporting Syrian refugees has dropped this year compared to the past couple of years, the Team is currently working on two new refugee sponsorship applications. We meet on the third Thursday of every month at 7:30 pm at MLC; anyone who is interested in joining or learning more about the Team can contact Greg at

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