All Saints Anglican Church helping refugee family settle in

Vernon’s newest residents are getting used to the community and their surroundings

Theda Cozby

Theda Cozby

Vernon’s newest residents are getting used to the community and their surroundings.

All Saints Anglican Church recently brought a refugee family of six from Myanmar to the North Okanagan.

“The past few weeks have been very busy,” said Colin Heggie, with All Saints.

The family speaks Karen and they are from one of the many camps in northwest Thailand where minority groups from Myanmar escaped persecution by their military.

“There are now about 150,000 people in these camps, where no permanent structures are allowed, and subsistence-level food, medical care and education is mostly provided by western aid agencies,” said Heggie.

The four children, ages 19 months to almost 11, were all born in the camp.

For two years, the parents waited for their application to move to Canada to be approved and in early May, they were matched with All Saints Anglican Church.  They arrived in Vernon Aug. 10.

Since then, daily schedules have been occupied with learning English, figuring out how to use local buses, getting a bank account, finding foods they like and filling out government and utility paperwork.

“There are also all of the other components of life we take for granted, but are completely new and baffling for them,” said Heggie.

Because the family started with no English, All Saints has received help from four other local Myanmar refugees, who were sponsored here by East Hill Community Church.

Vernon and District Immigrant Services staff have also assisted with school registrations, English classes, advice, and child care.

“There are also several people outside of the All Saints congregation who have joined the support group,” said Heggie.

Heggie admits that volunteers are challenged by the work involved in helping set up a new household, transporting the family, babysitting, teaching them new skills and helping them understand Canadian ways.

“Sometimes the work is exhausting, but when one of the little kids grabs your hand and calls you mama or papa, and gives you a big hug, there’s no doubt all the work is worthwhile,” he said.