Welcome Home is a refugee housing community based in Kitchener, Ontario. They provide housing for newly arrived refugees, for their first year in Canada. They help them enrol in ESL classes, interact and engage with the community, and advocate for them.
Cross-cultural experiences are always a learning experience, I find. The simple act of interacting with people from other cultures causes you to become inventive in communication strategies and influences the possible activities in that situation. I had the opportunity to volunteer with Welcome Home Refugee Housing Community this past summer, and the experience was particularly eye-opening and challenging.
During my initial interview and trainings, the Welcome Home supervisor, Sharon Schmidt, recommended that I spend my volunteer hours organizing and running a camping trip for their houseful of 15 refugees. I agreed, as my family and I go camping often, and it seemed relatively simple. However, organizing a trip for a group of refugees was more challenging than expected, as the number of attendees was not finalized until we left and then changed throughout the weekend, fluctuating between 12 and 20!
I spent the weekend learning about Colombian, Eritrean, Ethiopian, and Kurdish cultures. For example, one of the Kurdish men told me that a meal is incomplete without flatbread, and he also made tea for us in his samovar. The Ethiopian ladies were lost if we forgot to bring the salt for any of the meals, and the Colombians were the only ones who liked to eat sweet foods. I had a lot of fun canoeing with one of the Kurdish men, and spent some time trying to teach an Ethiopian lady to become comfortable in the water.
Interestingly, I found that the most difficult interactions I had were with a fellow Canadian. Of course, the weekend was a long English lesson for the majority of the campers, and also helped to build friendships between housemates. Overall, the weekend, though challenging, was a valuable experience that improved my understanding of and competency in cross-cultural interactions.
Welcome Home often has needs that include anything from volunteers to interact with residents, help clean apartments and move residents, assist in excursions, and build their collection of items that help get refugees on their feet. You can contact them here if you’d like to get involved!
Welcome! My name is Katiana and I am a development professional pursuing my dream to live out Isaiah 1:17 to the best of my abilities. I am passionate about teaching and working with vulnerable families and children to improve their lives sustainably.
This blog is composed of my personal opinions, which do not necessarily reflect the opinion or views of institutions or organizations that I may be or have been affiliated with.