Ottawa

Refugee women overwhelmed by support during pandemic

Some refugee women in Ottawa fleeing violence and abuse say they're overwhelmed by the enormous community support that's helped cover their basic needs through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Carty House raises $20K in only 6 weeks

Louise Ebeltoft, manager at Carty House, says they weren’t sure what to expect when they put out a call for financial help during the pandemic but the support they’ve gotten has been overwhelming. 1:02

Some refugee women in Ottawa fleeing violence and abuse say they're overwhelmed by the enormous community support that's helped cover their basic needs through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Julia, one of those women, lives at Carty House, a supportive residence for refugee women located in a nondescript stone house in central Ottawa. 

"[They're] a nice family for me," said Julia, whose name CBC has agreed to withhold because she is fleeing domestic violence and is afraid of being tracked down. "It's a family. Because here I find some sisters."  

Many of the 10 women staying at Carty House, however, have lost the little income they were bringing in from their part-time jobs, after they were cut when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

While they're still studying English and learning other skills, the job losses — coupled with the rising costs associated with the pandemic — have put their residence in a tough financial position.

Carty House relies on donations to stay afloat, and organizers have been afraid that with the financial constraints imposed by the pandemic, those could dry up.

Louise Ebeltoft, right, embraces one of the 10 women staying at Carty House. The home, which offers support for refugee women, is staying afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to thousands of dollars in community donations. (Omar Dabaghi-Pacheco/CBC)

$20K raised

"All the costs were going up," said Carty House manager Louise Ebeltoft. "So, we're looking at our budget and it's like, uh-oh! We're starting to dig a big trench here." 

Ebeltoft put out a call for help, however, and the response they got exceeded their greatest expectations.

One family alone donated $5,000. More donations came by way of the Ottawa Community Foundation, a local philanthropic organization. Altogether, Carty House raised about $20,000 in six weeks.

"It is quite overwhelming and emotional when you realize somebody cares that much. It's like, wow!" said Ebeltoft. "It was something we had never seen before."

“Julia,” whose identity CBC has agreed to withhold because she is fleeing domestic violence, describes what it’s like to try to make a life in a new country during the pandemic and what Carty House has meant to her. 0:54

It's more than they've ever raised in such a short time, and enough to keep Carty House afloat for at least the next few months — a big help to the refugee women, as they study and try to put down new roots in Canada.

For Julia, it's also given her a lot to think about as she awaits her refugee board hearing.

'Touches the heart'

"[Taking] care of some people you don't know, just [donating] to support them — that surpassed my [expectation]," she said. 

"The way they helped us will give me [the desire] to fight in life and help [other] people who needs that help. Do the same, like them."

Even Ebeltoft said the pandemic is teaching her a lot about her community. 

"When people are already hurting ... they still give," she said. "That's quite something. That really touches the heart." 

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