New Hamilton coffee cups tell the stories of the city's refugees, homeless and poor

Wesley Urban Ministries has launched a new series of cup sleeves in independent coffee shops across the city that showcase the stories of its clients — some of Hamilton’s most vulnerable people.

Wesley Urban Ministries launches new project to spread the word about its clients

Wesley Urban Ministries has launched a new project to tell the stories of its clients on coffee cups around the city. (Adam Carter/CBC)

Wesley Urban Ministries wants to tell you a story alongside your morning coffee.

The local non-profit has launched a new series of cup sleeves in independent coffee shops across the city that showcase the stories of its clients — some of Hamilton's most vulnerable people.

Wesley, which helps people dealing with homelessness, poverty and displacement, is trying to connect with people in a way that feels more personal than a billboard or a bus ad, said spokesperson Adam Vrankulj.

"It's an introduction, a 'Hey, these people are living in your neighbourhood,'" he said. "There's not enough awareness of these people in the community, and in many cases, they've gone through a hell of a lot."

We want to start an organic conversation.- Adam Vrankulj, Wesley Urban Ministries

Take Emma, for instance. She came to Canada from Ghana with her dad at age 14 — but her dad kicked her out of their home at 17 because he didn't approve of her choices.

She ended up in Wesley Youth Housing. "They took me in and I stayed in this program for 2 years. I learned so much," she said on a post on Wesley's website.

There's also Mariam, who has a Master's degree in political geography and was a teacher in her home country of Iraq. She fled persecution across the world, and was jailed more than once while trying to just make her way to Canada.

She arrived in Canada in 2014, but by the time she did, medical problems were starting to take their toll.

"I was destroyed. I don't even know how to describe my situation at this time and I don't want to share it all," she said on Wesley's website. "But I can say that Wesley staff took care of me and I stayed at the Wesley Reception House for two months until my health stabilized."

"I have been working hard to start a new life, from the very beginning that I arrived."

Mariam was a teacher in Iraq, and now lives in Hamilton. A picture and an excerpt of her story is on the cup sleeve, with a link to read her full story online. (Wesley Urban Ministries)

She now walks with a cane and is legally blind, yet she is pursuing more education.

"I finished high school in English and hope to study next at Mohawk College. I try and look on the positive side of life and encourage other refugees to do the same — to build a new life for yourself and your family."

Vrankulj said it's his hope that these kinds of stories will resonate with people, and help them become more aware of the work that Wesley does in Hamilton.

"We think that coffee shops are a great avenue to do this," he said. "We want to start an organic conversation."


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