Peggy Pickett
Photo/Mark Rauwerda

MCC's Refugee Program Assistant, Peggy Pickett, presents at a Sponsorship Group training event.

My job makes me cry – and those are the best days!

I am not typically an emotional responder. My friends, my family, my colleagues, they all know this about me. But man oh man, can this job do the trick.

"My job makes me cry – and those are the best days!"

- Peggy Pickett, MCC Ontario Refugee Sponsorship Assistant

My name is Peggy and I work for Mennonite Central Committee Ontario as the Refugee Program Assistant. I returned to the role after a 5 year absence in September 2016 in response to the Syrian crisis. At first I volunteered in my spare time, but quickly rejoined the staff team as it became apparent that the enormous compassionate outpouring of support from Canadians requires additional capacity and sustained support. Then the federal government stepped up to the plate with the commitment to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees.  That commitment ushered in the most incredible, unprecedented year in the recent history of the Canadian private sponsorship of refugee program.

My role is highly administrative. It involves paperwork, email (lots of email!), more paperwork, data entry, telephone conversations, project management, communication, and team work. I support the entire team and all of our Constituent Groups – the people who actually do the bulk of the hands-on resettlement work. I do not typically have direct contact with the refugees or with the Newcomers when they arrive. So why does my job make me cry?

I don’t usually cry when I am sad, or hurt, or angry. It seems to be my response though, when I witness abundant compassion and grace. Let me share a few of my stories with you. 

I had an early morning conference call with one of our Constituent Groups. On the phone were 3 members of a small, rural Ontario church who represented the 67 church members. It was a conversation about the process, what was involved, using as an example the only profile I had available at the time, a Syrian family of 11. Without batting an eye, they unhesitatingly accepted sponsorship! I was astounded at their faith and commitment. With tears in my eyes, we commenced the sponsorship.

A young girl had lived in a near vegetative state, wheelchair bound, and unresponsive her entire life. She arrived in Canada with her family and thanks to the strong advocacy of her sponsors, received medical care and therapy. A picture was shared with us of her father watching his daughter take her first steps. Words cannot express the transcendent joy on his face – and the tears that we all shared.

Playing peek-a-boo with a newcomer toddler. Language barriers overcome by giggles. Distance overcome by hugs.

Standing in the shade on a beautiful summer day, holding plates of hummus and pita and olives, a newcomer shared his story – of imprisonment and release – of returning home to find it destroyed, levelled, the entire neighbourhood unrecognizable – of the loss of his entire family. Vanished. His escape from Syria and his resettlement to Canada. The hope he has for himself, the hope he has for the family he cannot find and the despair he feels. Words could not express what our hearts were feeling, but our eyes, awash in tears, spoke volumes.

I am grateful that as Canadians, we came together and with a powerful and compassionate voice and responded to the plight of the refugee in such a way as to affect permanent and powerful change. My life, my heart, has been forever changed, and I am grateful. Thank you to all our Constituent Groups for answering the call to support Newcomers. Thank you to all our donors whose financial contributions make our work possible. Thank you to all our prayer partners who sustain us with their faithful petitions. Thank you, Canada, for opening your doors and saving lives.

My tears are from a heart that is overflowing. They are tears of compassion, tears of joy, tears of great gratitude. Thank you.