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Volunteers make blankets for refugees

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

03/15/2017

Volunteers gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Family March 10 for one of six workshops held in Saskatoon to create fleece no-sew blankets for refugees crossing the border into Manitoba. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

SASKATOON — Saskatoon volunteers from many faith traditions recently gathered to create soft, warm fleece blankets for refugees coming to Manitoba across the Canada-United States border.

Blanket workshops were held March 6 - 10 in six different settings: Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal, St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, Congregation Agudas Israel, Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church, the Cathedral of the Holy Family and Baitur Rahmat Mosque.

Volunteers exceeded the goal of creating 50 blankets, said project leader Cecilia Rajanayagam of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Saskatoon.

In the fall, Rajanayagam was part of an initiative at Emmanuel Baptist to create similar blankets for shelters and charities in the city of Saskatoon.

“We had already worked out the logistics and some willing workers,” she said, noting it was not difficult to mobilize volunteers to take on the new project.

In an email to faith communities, she described watching news reports about refugees and others seeking sanctuary in Canada, crossing the border into Manitoba in search of safety, security and protection.

“I was so very proud at that moment to be a Canadian and grateful for the tiny community of Emerson, Man., (for) ‘stepping up to the plate,’ ” she wrote. “I know that my faith beliefs call me to welcome the stranger in our midst so it was no question that we were doing the right thing. Out of that reality branched the idea of showing some gesture of love, support and welcome to these our brothers and sisters, our new neighbours.”

Rajanayagam worked with local volunteers from various faith groups — such as Teresa Field of the Holy Family Craft Guild — to organize the various workshops. Klaus Gruber of the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition was also part of the project: he will deliver the blankets to Winnipeg where new arrivals are being sheltered.

Gruber said a highlight of the week was when two Syrian refugee families came to a workshop to help create the blankets. A woman who came to Canada as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo was a volunteer at another workshop session, sharing some of her own story.

“What was most touching was hearing her say that this is love. To do something for people you don’t even know, people with different-coloured skin, people you have never met — this is love,” Rajanayagam said.

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