Altona –  Touching Lives by Tapping Shoulders   

The roots of volunteerism run deep in the lovely town of Altona.  For members of the Evangelical Mennonite Mission Church, a tap on the shoulder and a request to lend a hand is all that is required.  This down to earth approach has led to the creation of a pair of innovative ministries to meet the needs and wishes of new Canadians from  Burundi, Syria, Iraq, Rwanda and Sudan.

From September through April, every Monday evening, volunteers sit “one to one” with their new neighbours, have a cup of coffee and simply visit.  This is called “English Café”. It allows both parties to share and to get to know one another, and it is an excellent opportunity to help the newcomers with their English skills.  This has proven very successful, because the volunteers have learned that the greatest longing among new Canadians is for meaningful connection and friendship.  We westerners are always in a hurry in a way that is foreign to people from cultures where there is time taken to laugh and share with friends and family.  Lasting friendships are created, and new Canadians feel at home.

One volunteer recognized the sadness among the participants in April when the English Café came to an end.  She and others decided to add another heartfelt ministry.  Folks are asked privately to name some of their deepest hopes and dreams for their future in Canada.  These might include learning to drive, or to see their children do better in school.  Volunteers take the dreams to heart and if there is absolutely anything they can do to help them come true, they will do it.  In the examples, they could take the person out driving to practice or they may offer tutoring and extra help for a child’s school work.  This is how the “Hopes and Dreams” ministry was created.

The world is a little bit better, thanks to these two simple, loving and honest ministries.

"I don’t know if I believe in God or not, but for an hour a week, this is a good place to think about that."

T.L.

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