Refugees in Windsor seeking 'connection to community' this holiday

The executive director of Matthew House wants refugee claimants to experience community — and he's hoping people in Windsor will step up and donate small gifts and cards this holiday.

Matthew House hoping people will step up and donate small gifts and cards

A temporary home for refugee claimants in Windsor is asking the community to donate gifts, write Christmas cards or sponsor a family to receive a holiday dinner. 1:14

A temporary home for refugee claimants in Windsor is asking the community to donate gifts, write Christmas cards or sponsor a family to receive a holiday dinner.

Matthew House wants to secure donations well before its dinner on December 5.

"Matthew House is 100 per cent donor-funded. We don't get any government funding for our shelter, for our support services — and certainly nothing to welcome families," executive director Mike Morency said.

Among those living in Matthew House right now is Itohan "Loveth" Obasuyi who fled Nigeria to save her daughter from becoming a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Itohan 'Loveth' Obasuyi fled Nigeria to save her daughter from becoming a victim of FGM. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

"What I suffer, all the pain I've been through, I don't want my daughter to go through it," she said.

Obasuyi said she nearly died after being cut twice when she was a young girl and still suffers from the life-long pain it caused. She said if she goes back, she will be killed.

"Nobody to speak for me, nobody. I just beg to be given the chance to rescue my children. I am just all by myself," she said.

Right now, there are 13 women staying at the shelter and more than half have experienced FGM, Part of their claim is to seek protection for their daughters, said Morency.

Obasuyi first landed in Montreal in 2017. Her refugee claim was denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and so was her appeal. 

Itohan Obasuyi's daughter is two years old. Her mother brought her to Canada so she wouldn't become a victim of FGM. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

She said it was because her French wasn't good enough, so she moved to Ontario so she could find work in English.

"She won't get another hearing. Her choices moving forward will impact her ability to stay in Canada. There are very few other options," said Morency. "One of those is humanitarian and compassionate grounds."

Obasuyi said she is scared and alone.

"I know that if my mother was to be alive today, at least I would have had motherly support, she'd be there to tell me what to do. I'm just here all by myself."

Meanwhile, Morency is trying to help Obasuyi feel less alone by having someone sponsor her and donate a gift she can unwrap under the tree at the Christmas Dinner hosted by Matthew House.

Mike Morency reaches across the table during the interview to reassure Loveth Obasuyi she is supported by a community. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Commit and call

Matthew House wants people to call once they're ready to commit as a donor.

One way to donate is to fill a stocking of small items for a resident. Here is a sample list:

  • Hygiene supplies.
  • Cleaning supplies.
  • Notebook.
  • Pens.
  • Teddy bear.
  • Small toys.
  • Bus pass.
  • Gift cards for groceries.

Another way to sponsor is to pay $25 for a refugee to have a Christmas dinner.

Mike Morency is from the Matthew House. 8:21

On December 5, Matthew House will host a feast for all of the refugees they helped who came to Windsor this past year. The guest list will feature more than 300 people.

"It's about making sure that these men, women and children have connection to community," said Morency.

Matthew House needs to secure enough donors by the end of November. People interested are asked to contact the shelter to find out more about ways to help.

Volunteer to complete renovations

Matthew House moved to the Forest Glade area in April, but renovations have taken longer than expected. Now, the shelter is seeking more people to help complete the project.

"Unfortunately over the summer time the volunteers disappeared and we haven't quite gotten them back yet," said Morency." I think they kind of forgot about us, I think the urgency sort of went away, but we need to get this project done."

Matthew House moved to an 18,000-square-foot building in Forest Glade — in the east end of Windsor. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Matthew House has been able to provide a bed for 125 people since opening its new location in April. But now, they need tradespeople to take the renovations across the finish line. 

"I really need a plumber right now as well as somebody who can do electrical, some drywall, painting, and flooring."

Morency said if it wasn't for Matthew House most refugees would end up in the general homeless population and really struggle to re-build their lives.

A typical double bedroom in Matthew House will be shared by a parent and one or two of their children. (Amy Dodge/CBC)


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