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Refugee Experiences

RefugeesAs the editor of Moods magazine, I often try to look at various topics that may cover uncommon or atypical aspects of mental health. Sometimes it is important to think about situations that are not necessarily the norm for us as we can always learn from any experience, especially when it involves divergent points of view.

Recently one of our regular contributors, Wendy Campbell, wrote in her personal blog about refugees coming to our country and the help Canadians are offering to assist them. We can only imagine the horrific trauma these people have undergone and how mentally challenging it must be for them to begin a new life in an unfamiliar place so far from home. So, I thought I would share some of Wendy’s recent blogs, which covers the role that she and some of her neighbours have taken on with respect to sponsoring a refugee family. I believe that we will find, as time passes, how valuable the effects of support and care from others can positively influence the healing of the mind and lessen or alleviate the great pain many may be struggling with. Below, Wendy recounts her anomalous experience:

I’ve been a regular contributor to Moods for almost 15 years, writing on a range of subjects that relate to our readers’ interest in mental health.

I began posting a monthly blog over four years ago, based on my observations of how and where various art forms appear in our world and how they help explore and explain that world to us. In November my subject was books that give us some insight into the refugee experience, prompted by my recent connection with a sponsoring group. I finished the blog with this…

“I’m about to read two other books about refugee experiences as I’m preparing (as part of a neighbourhood group) to welcome a migrant individual or family to Toronto and support them for a year…daunting!. It’s early days but I’ll track our progress in a postscript to future blogs.”

Then, the brutality in Paris happened, and in December, I wrote about how Toronto musicians maintained their scheduled performance in France a few days later to show courage and defiance of the attackers’ mentality. I added a postscript about my group, as follows,

“As I mentioned last month, my neighbours and I (along with many other groups across the city, and the country) have begun the process of sponsoring a refugee family. We began pretty much as strangers to each other and are gradually revealing our talents and our willingness to donate time and energy…and we’re beginning to examine our ability to tolerate the ambiguities that a task like this is already presenting.”

Since then, things have progressed slowly but surely. We’re now into December and yesterday we received a reply to an email sent to our family…it finished like this,    “Thank you again because you are giving us the chance again to live a peaceful and normal life away from violence and fears.” Anybody else have tears in their eyes reading this?

As I send this off to meet the e-newsletter deadline, there’s been a telephone conversation with the family (we are incredibly lucky to have an Arabic speaker in our group). This was a wonderful opportunity to establish a connection, gather some information about them, share some facts about us and generally get to know each other a bit. It was a chance to assure them that we’re here to support them when they arrive, also to contribute to our enthusiasm about the project.  As we move towards Christmas, there’s still much uncertainty about the date of their arrival. And there’s a chance that we may have to spring into action before we’re ready…not a big thing given what they’ve been through. I’ll be back in the next newsletter with news.

If you wish to follow up on how this neighbourhood sponsorship is progressing, you can visit Wendy’s blog at