News Local

Refugee family welcomed to the city

By Stephen Uhler, The Daily Observer

A refugee family from Colombia who are resettling in Canada is spending their first Christmas in Pembroke, thanks to a cooperative effort by local church groups. Seated in the centre, the Angulo family - mom Karen, son Andres (holding soccer ball) and daughter Viviana - are surrounded by, starting from left, Rick Mackay, elder with St. Andrew's United Church, Lee Torvi, coordinator of Upper Valley Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, Sister Connie Lacroix and Sister Kathleen O'Neill, both of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Catherine Toner, adminstrator of the Sisters of Visitation, Isobel Watson, elder with St. Andrew's United Church, and Rev. Rick Metcalfe. Kneeling in front is Rev. Suzanne Nadon. In front is the food donation collected by the St. Andrew's congregation.

A refugee family from Colombia who are resettling in Canada is spending their first Christmas in Pembroke, thanks to a cooperative effort by local church groups. Seated in the centre, the Angulo family - mom Karen, son Andres (holding soccer ball) and daughter Viviana - are surrounded by, starting from left, Rick Mackay, elder with St. Andrew's United Church, Lee Torvi, coordinator of Upper Valley Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, Sister Connie Lacroix and Sister Kathleen O'Neill, both of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Sister Catherine Toner, adminstrator of the Sisters of Visitation, Isobel Watson, elder with St. Andrew's United Church, and Rev. Rick Metcalfe. Kneeling in front is Rev. Suzanne Nadon. In front is the food donation collected by the St. Andrew's congregation.

A refugee family settling in Canada is spending its first Christmas in Pembroke, thanks to a co-operative effort by local church groups.

Karen Angulo and her children Viviana and Andres have just arrived from Colombia, brought here through the efforts of the Upper Valley Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, and its refugee project.

The family is currently the guest of the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Sisters of the Visitation. Angulo and her children will be staying at the west end Pembroke motherhouse until they move into an apartment in January.

Lee Torvi, who is co-ordinating this on behalf of the Ottawa Valley Refugee Committee, said the project is in conjunction with United Church of Canada's work in sponsoring refugees to settle in Canada, which in itself is done under an agreement reached with Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

"Refugee settlement is an ongoing project," she said, which they started by the Upper Valley Presbytery this June.

So far, Torvi said the group has helped three Iranian women, who stayed with the Sisters in October before relocating to Toronto, where they could link up with friends there.

Now they have helped the Angulo family, with the support of many from across Renfrew County, including people from Algonquin College and the Latino community within Pembroke.

This includes another Colombian family who settled here in 2008, again with the help of local churches.

Sister Kathleen O'Neill of the Sisters of St. Joseph said they have been privileged to have the Angulo family stay with them over Christmas. She said a number of their order do mission work in Central America and can speak Spanish, so they are able to make their guests feel more at home.

Rev. Suzanne Nadon of St. Andrews United Church in Westmeath said its small congregation is assisting as well and pulled together to help the family settle in, gathering food and other items to help stock their pantry.

She said moving to a new country with a new climate, a new language and a new culture cannot be easy for the family, but those involved locally are doing all they can to provide a warm welcome for the family.

"This is truly a Christmas story," she said. "Whereas for the baby Jesus there was no room at the inn, in this case, a new life in Canada was given full support and warm embraces by the Sisters, the refugee project and its supporters."

Stephen Uhler is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

stephen.uhler@sunmedia.ca


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