people at the airport
Photo/Elaine Hofer

(From left) Fata Muheljic, Reyad Alhamoud, Najwa Hussein Al Mohamad, Paul Waldner, and children, (front) Raghad and Ali. 

Paul Waldner Elaine Hofer and are members of Green Acres Colony, near Wawanesa, Manitoba. Their Hutterite colony, along with Enes and Fata Muheljic from Wawanesa, worked with MCC Canada to sponsor a family from Syria. Hofer wrote about the day that they met

Playing time: 
On this episode of Threads, you’ll hear from Maysoun Darweesh, MCC Manitoba's Migration and Resettlement program coordinator.

Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge talks to Maysoun to learn about her story and hear about her work as the migration and resettlement program coordinator for MCC Manitoba.

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 (00:02):

It begins with a single thread woven through another 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. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to an 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.

Maysoun Darweesh (00:51):

My goodness, it's amazing. I turn to be a five-year-old girl.

Kyle Rudge (00:55):

It's Manitoba. It's the end of January, the beginning of February, which means it's cold, really cold. "Throw Boiling water into the wind and watch it evaporate instantly" - kind of cold. It feels like though, a good time to bring on someone who is not originally from Manitoba, but loves it here, calls it their home, loves it as their home, including the winter, and along with her, brings us some much-needed warmth.

Maysoun Darweesh (01:25):

My name is Maysoun Darweesh. I'm the Program Coordinator for Migration and Resettlement at MCC Manitoba. I'm based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Kyle Rudge (01:34):

Maysoun's story goes across Asia, Africa and the Middle East, where her and her husband were refugees themselves, fleeing for their lives. Eventually, they were welcomed as strangers to Canada through the Blended Visa Office Referral program or BVOR. Those that didn't know them, didn't know who they were, didn't know their qualifications or education, didn't know anything about them, yet still wanted to help. Her story lends itself well to loving all things Manitoba, even these cold winters, because it is their hope. Maysoun now serves Mennonite Central Committee Manitoba as the Migration and Resettlement Program Coordinator, helping to facilitate more people just like her family, come to Canada and find a new hope among kind and generous people. That's you by the way, kind and generous people.

Maysoun Darweesh (02:28):

I'm responsible for PSR programs, which means Private Sponsored Refugee program. Everything related to sponsorship, our CG’S, constituent groups, community organizations or group of people who wants to be involved and sponsor refugees. We get the allocations from the government. We allocate it, we allocate them, and we go from there.

Kyle Rudge (02:56):

Basically, if you or your group are interested in giving a refugee a new hope, Maysoun is the person who helps to navigate the red tape one must get through to make it happen. There are two types of refugee sponsorship programs in Canada. The first and arguably most common is the Private Refugee Sponsorship Program. This is when someone, who is likely a refugee already in Canada, wishes to bring family members over. There's a specific person or persons that are being requested to be brought. The other program is called the Blended Visa Office Referral program, or BVOR.

Maysoun Darweesh (03:31):

It's a slightly different because you don't have a chance to choose the files that you want to sponsor or the refugees you want to sponsor. It's mainly referred - it's from the title, you can tell. Referred by us and through like profile on IRCC website connected to this program. And certain groups and churches will show interest and pick files. Of course, those profiles has no names or like very detailed information. So it's mainly to help strangers. Like BVOR is really connected to like, we'll say, helping strangers completely. You don't know whom you're helping, and this is the source of sponsorship. To me, it's the spirit of sponsorship.

Kyle Rudge (04:22):

There are some distinct differences other than just the stranger aspect of this program.

Maysoun Darweesh (04:27):

Of course, half of the financial cost on the sponsorship group. The other half is on the IRCC, Immigration Refugee Citizenship of Canada. The sponsorship group would assist not only financially for six months, but also they will assist emotionally and psychosocially and settlement support. It's all on the sponsorship groups.

Kyle Rudge (04:53):

So in addition to the added funds from the IRCC, their turnaround time from commitment to refugees arrival in Canada is far shorter. We're talking one to four months from commitment to arrival. It should also be noted that people chosen to immigrate to Canada are not random. They still go through the same checks. It's just that all of that has already been done, and there's a cue of people in need, waiting for someone to welcome the stranger.

Maysoun Darweesh (05:22):

To me, helping strangers, like helping in general, because I want to say something very important here. Nothing wrong to bring your loved ones because they are refugees as well. Like they are suffering and struggling as well. The only good thing here that they have link, they have hope that someone they know in Canada will do anything to help them and bring them over. While somebody who's also refugee with no link whatsoever, what chances do they have if the government do not bring them under guard? Government assisted Refugee program or BVOR program, right? So to me, helping strangers, as I mentioned, is the source of sponsorship program. Like when even private sponsored refugee program started as a like SA, Sponsorship Agreement, holder signed the agreement. It was to help refugees like Vietnamese refugees, okay? Help refugees from all over the world without knowing who are they, right? Now, I know whom I'm helping. So suddenly I have this alternative program who will allow me to help someone I never met before. Giving hope to someone lost any reason of, you know, continue in life because they lost everything. They lost their country. They lost their family members. They, they lost their loved ones, and they found themselves in exile without any direction. And suddenly I would be able to give them a very clear direction to resettle them in a third safe country. Call final destination, call home as Canada.

Kyle Rudge (07:07):

"Then The king will say to those at his right hand, come, you that are blessed by my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me." Matthew 25: 34-35.

Maysoun Darweesh (07:29):

This tells me a lot about the society where we're living in. This tells me a lot about Manitoba, because I know the eagerness and love, the amount of love and support that people are dealing with. And also they are receiving and giving back as well, because people likes to give back. People likes to show their gratitude and gratefulness. So, many times I say this is our culture as Canadian, this is who we are. The country was built on diversity and generosity and beautiful history. We shouldn't forget that, cause sometimes it's easy to forget. And our job is to remind ourselves first and everybody around us who we are why we are here, what is our purpose in life? Just to live and make money? No. Our purpose in life, to help each other's, brothers, sisters in humanity, and create a beautiful society, a beautiful Canada. I always say, this is my home. This is my country. And I am obligated morally. And but even regarding my faith, you know. I am obligated to help and to support and to raise awareness and advocate. So that's what it means to me. And I think it means you know, a lot to other people in the same level, even more.

Kyle Rudge (08:55):

I told my wife last week how much I always look forward to speaking to Maysoun. She has this zeal for life, this positivity despite circumstance and I find that infectious. I find it needed, to be frank. The care she holds for others is profoundly evident, and she has this knack for telling some incredible stories along the way. To illustrate, I asked Maysoun if there was a story from this past year that she wanted to share with us, a story of Manitobans, of generosity, of intrigue, of - you get the idea. She didn't let me down.

Maysoun Darweesh (09:31):

I remember one of our churches, our constituent groups, said we want to go through Blended Visa Office Referred program. First, they said, we wanna help vulnerable people regardless, because it's well known, the whole profiles or portfolios of refugees within the database for blended visa office referred program are really vulnerable, high need cases. It's tough. That's why I always encourage people, like, if you wanna help strangers, please do it through this way.

Kyle Rudge (10:04):

So after looking through all of the very generic profiles, they settled on a woman, bringing her from a refugee camp to Canada.

Maysoun Darweesh (10:13):

The support of the church as usual is amazing. They prepared everything for them. One thing make things really delayed because the mom was expecting. So we didn't know <laugh>, you know, complicated, you know, so we had to wait. The church had to wait, so things took over five months, and they kept telling me, "Maysoun what's going on? What's happening? We want them here. We prepared everything. We have the apartment, we furnish it, everything is ready for them." And I was like, "Well, this is the case. Have the baby first and ensure the baby is healthy. She's healthy, and we can, you know, the government will process everything." Finally, they arrive safe and sound. They're doing really well. Lots of support from the groups. Of course, that was the case during 2022, because this program was on hold for long time because of COVID. Like almost two years, it was on hold. And suddenly when they open it, I felt like, yes, now the chance to help strangers. Why we call strangers? Because PSR, Private Sponsored Refugee program, had become more like, fortunately and unfortunately more like Family Reunification program. BVR, on the other hand, no, it's helping strangers one hundred percent. You don't know whom you're helping. All what you see in the profile, a very general story, a very general information, no names. You will know the country of origin, but nothing really specific. You might know if they have any health issues, the number of children, that's it. You don't know who they are. You have no idea, no link. That's why I was like, oh, this is something we can really pursue with lots of community support. Especially, it doesn't cost lots of, like, it's half of the cost, okay? Completely half of it. So it's something really we're planning to continue promoting for and advertising for, beside the PSR program, Private Sponsored Refugee program.

Kyle Rudge (12:27):

That is a lot. If you or your group are interested in something like this, whether it's being involved or just helping with some of the social and psychosocial supports, like being a friend to newcomers to Canada, Maysoun and MCC are also there to help facilitate. You can contact Maysoun at the MCC Manitoba office and she could get the process started for you. In the interim, I asked Maysoun what the best part was. In her job, there's a lot of emotions, a lot of ups, and there are some downs and all arounds. But if she were to isolate a single moment, a moment of joy, a passion of excitement, a single moment that she just loves, what would that moment be?

Maysoun Darweesh (13:10):

The nicest moment. And I always experience it as if it happened for first time. When I receive the notice of arrival. Every time, I'm telling you, every time I receive it, I feel I'm over the moon. I'm so happy I forwarded right away to the CG's, like, you know, constituent groups. My goodness. It's amazing. I turn to be a five year old girl who's getting so happy and excited and like I can't even express the actual feeling because I'm so, I feel so happy. Now, you want me to be very precise. That's the, the most joyful moment ever actually. Whenever I get the NAT, Notice of Arrival, I will start. Yay. That's amazing. Oh my God.

Kyle Rudge (14:11):

MCC Threads is produced by KR words with story assistance from Jason Dueck. Big thank you to Maysoun Darweesh and your stories, your heart, your zest and zeal for life, and for sharing that with us. I'm Kyle Rudge, and this is MCC Threads.


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