News Story

Lethbridge Latter-day Saints Help Refugees

Members of the Lethbridge Alberta East Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered with Lethbridge Family Services (LFS) to provide food staple boxes for refugee families arriving in Canada. Karen Nemeth, stake communication director, co-ordinated the effort.

“These are our sisters and brothers coming from many parts of the world to start a new life far from their homelands and all that is familiar to them,” Nemeth said. “We can play an important role in helping them feel welcome and part of Canada.”

Church members donated flour, sugar, oil, rice, canned beans, lentils, pasta and other food items. Youth worked together to bag and label spices, make welcome cards and assemble the boxes of food. The boxes will be given to newly arriving refugee families.

Skylar Gibb, a youth from the Forestry Ward, said, “The fact that I was able to do something that was part of a greater cause than myself made this meaningful. It was such a cool experience and so much fun to be a part of allowing refugees to have a better welcome into Canada.”

Paige Zemp, another youth participant, remarked, “For me, it was the joy of imagining [the refugees’] excitement when they open the boxes. I love making them feel like they have a home and that they are loved.”

Volunteering to help refugees is one simple way to make a difference in our communities and the lives of others. Youth participant Jacqueline Douglas commented, “[Our service] was meaningful because I knew [it] was making a huge impact in their lives. I would tell people to help the refugees because it brings light into their lives as well as ours when we serve them.”

“It is heartwarming to see donations so eagerly given and watch as these young people work together to help refugees,” Nemeth added. “What a privilege it is to help in this small way.”

In April 2016, during an address to the worldwide Church, Elder Patrick Kearon said, “There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today, which means that ‘1 in every 122 humans … has been forced to flee their homes,’ and half of these are children. It is shocking to consider the numbers involved and to reflect on what this means in each individual life. … We must be careful that news of the refugees’ plight does not somehow become commonplace when the initial shock wears off and yet the wars continue and the families keep coming. Millions of refugees worldwide, whose stories no longer make the news, are still in desperate need of help” (“Refuge From the Storm”).

The Lethbridge Alberta East Stake has completed several other projects to support refugees. In August, Nathan Neudorf, Lethbridge-East member of legislative assembly, joined Latter-day Saint volunteers and newly arrived immigrants from Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Tanzania and other countries to make hygiene kits for the immigrant services division of LFS. The project produced 1,100 hygiene kits.

A week earlier, another group of volunteers assembled 300 hygiene kits that were delivered to the Lethbridge School Division for distribution at their “Ready, Set, Go” back-to-school drive. These kits are used by the Lethbridge soup kitchen as well as distributed to newly arrived refugees through LFS.

Najib Mangal, manager of community connection and employment services at LFS, noted that “when government-assisted refugees first arrive to Canada, they are often hungry and exhausted. Having access to culturally appropriate food helps the families feel welcomed and at ease. We at LFS, as well as our refugee clients, are extremely grateful for the kindness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who provide us with food and hygiene kits for our new arrivals. We look forward to continuing to work together as we welcome our new Canadian neighbours.”

Elder Kearon reminds us, “Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period — we hope a short period — in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us” (“Refuge From the Storm”).

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