A group is gathered around a sacred fire at Kapabamayak Achaak Healing Forest in commemoration of the 2021 We Are All Treaty People Celebration.
Photo courtesy of Duncan McNairnay

Special guests attend a ceremony at Kapabamayak Achaak Healing Forest to commemorate Treaties 1 and 2 as part of the We Are All Treaty People Celebration on Sept. 19, 2021.


This annual celebration is organized by MCC Manitoba, Winnipeg Quakers, TRC Action Committee United Church, Diocese of Rupert’s Land (Anglican) and in partnership with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM).

Playing time: 
Join Threads for MCC Manitoba's program highlights and most memorable stories in 2021.


Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge reviews 2021 highlights with Maysoun Darweesh and Kerry Saner-Harvey.

Threads, formerly known as Word and Deed, was established in April 2007. It is a 15-minute radio program by KR Words featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of the month. 

Audio transcription:

Kyle Rudge  0:02  
It begins with a single thread, woven through other thread, and then another, and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another just like it. [MUSIC]

This process is repeated over and over and over. Until we have a beautiful tapestry that all begin with a single thread. Welcome to MCC threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. Last year 2020 felt like the longest year ever, didn't it? It was like each day there was another news story of some form of imminent peril. It was exhausting. And then 2021 came around, and I blinked. It went by so fast. Typically for our December episode of Threads, we recap each episode of the year pick up maybe some highlights here in there. When I went back through this last year worth of episodes, there were two stories that stood out for me. Two stories that I figured why not hone in on and get some updates from others about those programmes that MCC is involved in. The first story is from January 2021. Remember Shafiqul? He came to Canada as a refugee and had an incredible first experience in Manitoba. 

Shafiqul Islam bin Abdul Hussin  1:42  
So this was our first experience. They're treated as as a human.

Kyle Rudge  1:48  
Migration & Resettlement is always filled with such powerful stories, refugees fleeing their home countries and finding peace and a fresh start. Because of the generosity and compassion of those here in Manitoba. It's hard not to tear up a little. After arriving in Canada, Shafiqul and his family had to go into quarantine. And their first experience with Canadians outside their family and those involved with the program was while they were giving birth.

Shafiqul Islam bin Abdul Hussin  2:14  
So this was our first experience. So they're treated as as a human. Because we never expect that before in Malaysia. I know our own kind of previous own country, Myanmar, we didn't get it, which we get in Canada. So we are very happy and I, my wife also very satisfied.

Kyle Rudge  2:40  
Shafiqul, his wife and their baby girl Affana are all doing well.

Maysoun Darweesh  2:45  
Hello, my name is Maysoun Darweesh. I am the program coordinator for Migration & Resettlement at MCC Manitoba.

Kyle Rudge  2:52  
A few days ago, I connected with Maysoun to give us some greater insight into the Migration & Resettlement Program and how the entirety of 2021 was.

Maysoun Darweesh  3:01  
Actually lots of inspiring moments. If I will count them, I will never finish but I will focus on what was really shocking and very significant in our work, because you know, our program is specifically related to sponsorship. So literally, this is COVID, your extension of COVID year, so people have no money, churches has no money. And I was thinking okay, I don't think we're going to get lots of inquiries. So we might be able to please everybody, because every year we get hundreds of inquiries, limited spaces. It's really hard to turn people's downs especially you know, how good they are, how eager they are to help. So I was like, okay, 2021 is the extension of what happened in 2020 too. In fact, it's even worse. So we'll see. We received 375 inquiries in a very tough year. And I was shocked.

Kyle Rudge  4:03  
375 inquiries seemed like a big number, but I wasn't sure because it lacked some context.

Maysoun Darweesh  4:09  
2019 we had about 400, like roughly, we almost reached 400. And mind you, I'm talking about per capita, like our population in Manitoba is really small compared to other provinces. But we are really competing with numbers competing with caring, with the groups, and I guarantee you if we will get 1000 spaces from the government, it will be gone. Period. 

Kyle Rudge  4:34  
What Maysoun is speaking of here, per capita Manitobans are among the most generous and welcoming Canadians as it pertains to refugees. Migration and resettlement may soon truly believes that if we had more people coming to Manitoba as refugees, they would easily be sponsored by the kindness and generosity of the residents in this province.

Maysoun Darweesh  4:53  
Honestly, this year, I felt like okay, in the previous years, we got this now it's impossible we reach 200 Literally because people really has been dealing in with rough situation and they are in a very rough shape. So they just surprised us. I was like, wow, wow, guys, you're you're willing to do anything to help.

Kyle Rudge  5:15  
I was curious if Maysoun had any other stories to perhaps share with us about migration and resettlement in 2021?

Maysoun Darweesh  5:22  
Yes, yes. It's what I call it a miracle. You know, for some reason my cell phone went viral during COVID. Because I work from

Kyle Rudge  5:32  
You know those phone calls you get from numbers that you don't recognise, and they seem to call over and over and over again, and we all get them. It felt like it got worse this year and Maysoun was getting those calls, too. So when one from all places Lebanon seem to keep calling her over and over and over again, that was also her first assumption.

Maysoun Darweesh  5:52  
And in random times, sometimes in the evenings, nights, daytime. So I said, okay, so I respond to the phone call. And it was a woman who's been living in a dire situation. She faced terrible circumstances. She she's been raped multiple times. She's been thrown on the street multiple times. She's a refugee there. Like horrible, horrible, horrible condition. I don't want to go in details. Hopefully, she'll come here soon, though. This will link to what I'm going to tell you as well. So when she contacted me it was at the beginning of January 2021. It's where you know, all sponsorship groups are well known. And they already acknowledge the groups, the refugees they're going to sponsor so everything should be done. You know? Usually people contact me at this time, like, two months or three months earlier, before the allocations.

Kyle Rudge  6:55  
This woman who called Maysoun was simply too late. It wasn't the right time of year for this request. Churches and groups initiate the steps, indicate that they would like to sponsor a refugee and then Maysoun starts the process, works with governmental and international authorities to bring that person over here to Manitoba. At the time, there were no churches, there were no groups. This was simply not the right time. 

Maysoun Darweesh  7:17  
This isn't possible. And who gave you my phone number. And it had to be someone I don't know. Someone she never met. He saw her on street beside the UNHCR building in Lebanon. He wrote her my phone number, and he vanished. He said, this is the phone number of a woman called Maysoun Darweesh, call her, she will be able to help you. And he vanished. She never met him again. She never met him before. So it's just like really crazy. So I said, okay, I don't know what to do. And this is terrible. Okay, we'll see. So I prayed. It took me the whole week, praying since she she found me. And I said, oh, Lord, if you're making me a bridge to help this person, and you're the one who sent that guy to give her the phone number, you bring the sponsorship group. You know, Lord, nothing is available. You bring those people, there is nothing in my hand. Of course, I contacted certain churches. I said, hey, this is the case. Well, they are involved already in sponsorship. Sponsoring families. So they said we wish, we can't. So I was so discouraged to be honest. A week after Friday morning, I receive a phone call. And that's when things start getting like oh my lord. One person. He said hello, can I speak to Maysoun? I said yes speaking. He said, well, we are this church. We sponsored a family four years ago. And since then, we didn't sponsor anybody. We have this amount of money, has been waiting in the bank in a church fund for a while. And we really want to sponsor someone this year, but a family what we don't know whom. People keep coming to us, but we wanted to sponsor someone really needs help. Like usually people will knock at the churches, churches will review the files and they come to us. This church said no, actually, we will contact MCC. Let's see, maybe they have a file.

Kyle Rudge  9:26  
How providential.

Maysoun Darweesh  9:29  
For four years, Kyle. They were just you know, waiting. And suddenly they decided after a week when I was so discouraged. Like I didn't know what to do. And I told her you have to wait until next year. Like there is no way, I can't promise anything. And it's impossible. I cannot find the church though. They called. They agreed to sponsor her. They sponsor her with the family. The file now is in process. We'll get the G number, waiting for the interview. When I say it's a miracle, trust me, it's a miracle because there was no way, like people keep telling me, no churches are available, no churches I available. They're all involved. And this significant story always provide me with hope. And always reminding me that never give up. 

Kyle Rudge  10:25  
Hope. Never give up. One other story that really stood out to me was in the summer of 2021, we visit the Kapabamayak Achaak Healing Forest in Winnipeg. This was just weeks before the first heartbreaking news broke of the residential school children discovered.

Kerry Saner-Harvey  10:42  
Hi, my name is Kerry Saner-Harvey, I work with MCC Manitoba as the program coordinator for the Indigenous Neighbours Program. 

Kyle Rudge  10:49  
At the time that we went to the forest Kerry introduced us to two women who were instrumental in crafting the space to be a place of learning and healing from the residential school atrocities of the past.

Lee Anne Block  10:59  
Because it was what we wanted it to be. It wasn't any one person's idea of what a memorial to Tilden loss to the residential school system should be. It really emerged from a lot of deep, and some very difficult conversations amongst us.

Val Vint  11:15  
Well, they're the these are the grandmother stones from you know, a stone from each direction.

Kyle Rudge  11:20  
Forgive me, what is a grandmother stone?

Val Vint  11:23  
It's in Indigenous culture, stones have more value than what you would just think about as stones. Stones carry all the stories, all the wisdom of Mother Earth.

Kyle Rudge  11:39  
Since then we've discovered more and the tragedy continues. Is there hope in the midst of all of this.

Kerry Saner-Harvey  11:46  
I think my favourite memory this year was the We Are All Treaty People Celebration that happened in September, which I think I can tell you was a really good example of the type of perseverance that I had mentioned. In the morning there was we had an in person commemoration event that was in collaboration with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba. And it was led by their elders who offered a pipe ceremony and a water ceremony. And we invited faith leaders from the community for a sort of commemoration ceremony that attempted to reverse the dominant perception of treaty, changing the power dynamics and centering Indigenous voices as they a you know, as they welcomed us onto the space and then listening to what treaty means to them. So I think for me, that was one of the most inspiring things that happened in 2021. Just seeing that there are really great committed folks out there, willing to go the extra mile for justice and reconciliation and and the treaty commitments.

Kyle Rudge  12:43  
There's still so much more work to do, but we can enter 2022 knowing that there's more understanding and compassion in the hearts of Manitobans to do it. Those are just a couple of the stories from this past year. If you're ever interested in more stories, whether they be an audio form, like Threads written or if you want to encounter them firsthand through volunteering, mccmb.ca is where you'll want to go to find all that. 

Every year MCC has a gift giving guide for everyone to participate in. It's a chance for us to buy a gift for someone around the world and share that hope and joy you spread with someone close to you here. So we got a few kids from the MCC Manitoba family to highlight the gifts that stuck out to them.

Idonia Saner-Harvey  13:26  
Hi, my name is Idonia and I would choose to gift of mosquito nets for my grandparents. I lived in Bangladesh for two years and I know how helpful mosquito nets can be for helping you to fall asleep because the mosquitoes are terrible. 

Kianna Rudge  13:45 
Hi, my name is Kianna and I would get a sewing machine for my mom because she does a lot of sewing. And I think other people should also have that opportunity. It would just give some people joy and stuff. 

Ender Rudge  14:00
Hi, my name is Ender. And I would get the fruit trees for my dad because I could use more fruit in my lunch. 

Halid Saner-Harvey  14:11
Hello, my name is Halid and I would give the gift of fruit trees to my mom because I used to live in Bangladesh. And I remember lots of good fruit like papayas and mangoes and lychees and I really love papayas and my mom really likes fruit too.

Kyle Rudge  14:32  
If you're struggling to find the right gift, this might be the way to go. Visit mccmb.ca/christmas.

Darryl Loewen  14:38  
Well, we find ourselves once again in the season of Advent. I'm Darryl Loewen. I'm executive director for MCC in Manitoba. And as we progress toward Christmas Day and as we contemplate that journey of Advent, I bless folks to pause in reflection and gratitude for a God who does know the human experience and the full range of that experience. Jesus really is available to us. And we can be participant with Jesus in the ministries of the church. And this season brings that into focus in in a mysterious and a wonderful way.

Kyle Rudge  15:27  
Merry Christmas from all of us at MCC Manitoba. May this holiday season be filled with not only hope and joy to you and your loved ones, but may you be a source of hope and joy for those around you and may that continue into 2022. MCC Threads is produced by KR Words with story assistance from Nikki Hamm Gwala. Thanks to Maysoun and Kerry for updating us and sharing your hearts. I'm Kyle Rudge and this is MCC Threads.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai