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Refugees once again being welcomed to Waterloo Region after pandemic shutdown

They'll have to isolate in a hotel for 14 days on arrival
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It was a heartbreaking affair when the pandemic shut down Canada's borders.

Organizations like Reception House had to turn away refugees who were in the process of coming to the country, sending them back to their camps overseas.

"For context, normally, we would accept more than 300 newcomers each year, so it was certainly significant," recalled Chris Hussey, Community Engagement Specialist with Reception House.

"It was a very challenging process, as we were working with the Canadian government to understand what was happening. It was a very chaotic time for everyone."

Through a challenging communication process with the government, Hussey said that Reception House was happy to finally welcome their first family to the region on August 31 after the shutdown.

That welcome is a lot more cautious than it used to be, as those newcomers will have to isolate in a hotel for 14 days on arrival, and have much of their orientation virtually using a Chromebook, with meals catered three times per day.

According to Hussey, many of those isolating are kids, and they're trying to give them more activities throughout that two-week quarantine.

"We're trying to put together welcome kits, and are looking to the community for that support," he said. 

Each Friday, Reception House runs their "High 5 for Newcomers" campaign, which asks for a $5 donation to help create those kits, which include crafts and games.

"The whole family benefits, but especially the kids," said Hussey. "So many newcomers are youth. To give them activities, and things to do, and really make that hotel experience a little brighter, is something we're striving to do."

Hussey commended the staff at Reception House for their steadfastness during the pandemic, and noted that they're keeping their sights set on welcoming families rather than the potential for another shutdown.

"Nothing like that has been confirmed or at least relayed to us, so we're certainly hoping that's not the case, and we'll continue to welcome newcomers once again just like we normally would."

If you want to help Reception House in their mission, click here.

You can read more about Chris Hussey's work in the community here.


Ben Eppel

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