In March, 2016, one long embrace ended a five-year separation among a group of Syrian newcomers seeking help at The Salvation Army’s Booth Centre in Ottawa. They were good friends from the same small community, but the last time they saw each other was in a refugee camp. Each family had assumed the other hadn’t made it out.
The Salvation Army has provided practical assistance to many of Ottawa’s Government-assisted refugees.
“The Salvation Army wants newcomers to know we care about them and that we are a safe place to go for help,” says Captain Tony Brushett, Assistant Executive Director. “We realize that, for some, it will be a long time before they are back on their feet.”
The first families to reach out to The Salvation Army for assistance requested items such as pillows, blankets, draperies, cutlery, pots and pans and cleaning supplies. They had beds, couches and tables, but very few household items or clothes. Before long The Salvation Army was providing food and thrift store vouchers to 60 families a day.
“After being housed, many are left to fend for themselves,” says Diana Javier, Community and Family Services Supervisor. “The Salvation Army is filling in some gaps. While the pace of newcomers has slowed down somewhat, we expect to serve up to 800 more refugees who will arrive by the end of the year.”
The Salvation Army is continually looking for ways to better serve the newcomers. For example, Arabic signs provide direction and guidance to areas of assistance. Staff is learning Arabic words and sentences and a translator helps to alleviate the stress of communicating in a new language.
“The newcomers we serve are truly grateful for our help,” says Brushett. “Many have witnessed atrocities we could never comprehend. We don’t ask any questions. We just say you are home. Welcome home.”