In collaboration with Freedom Trail and the  Danby Refugee Program 

With the back drop of Canada Day, the Rotary Club of Guelph Trillium, partnered with Freedom Trail Canada and Danby Refugee Program to host a special Canada Day welcome to women newcomers, many of whom are refugees.
It was a learning experience before we even got to the event!  We’d asked women to pre-register and only three women did – the day before.   Now we had lined up speakers from different agencies that serve immigrant women so we were a little nervous that there would be more speakers than guests.
We are pleased to report we were wrong. Women from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq came, along with a couple of little boys who came with their mother.  And MP Lloyd Longfield and MPP Mike Schreiner also popped in to welcome the women.
Partnering with the different agencies was a good move, and for the staff speaking, it was also an opportunity to network and learn more about the services each offered.   We had speakers from Chalmers (local foodbank) Immigration Services, Hope House, the Clothing Closet, and the Arab Women’s Society, as well as our two partners – Freedom Trail and Danby Refugee program.
We also invited the police to speak, recognizing that for many of the women, the police were viewed as a threat in their country of origin.  We were pleased to have Chief Gord Cobey and female officer Staff Sergeant Clark speak to the group.   One woman, from Syria, shared that the “police in her country were monsters and her daughter was scared of the police.”  However, that was changed when at a local event, an officer gave her daughter a frisbee and befriended her.   The talk from Chief Cobey and Mel Clark also went a long way to alleviate fears.
Food is always a good way to entice people to events, and this event was no exception.  Mena Sahak prepared an amazing sample of food from Afghanistan and Wellington Cakes generously donated Canada Day cupcakes.
The event was held at 10c Carden and their 4th floor meeting room was decorated with artwork by a Muslim artist originally from Uganda.  What a wonderful co-incidence.  It made everyone feel at home and more comfortable. 
All told, the event proved successful and marks the beginning of some strong partnerships in the Guelph community that we intend to explore further. And for the women who attended, hopefully they left feeling less alone and perhaps one step closer to feeling at home in Canada.


Submitted by Anne Day

Rotary Club of Guelph Trilium