This spring term is a very exciting term for me! The reason is that I get to spend it as a client support intern with the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS) in Kitchener, Ontario.
MCRS is a charitable organization that provides support to refugee claimants from A to Z. As such, the mission of MCRS is to welcome and support refugee claimants in the community by providing assistance with the refugee claim process, accessing a network of settlement support, building communities of mutual support, and advocating for a fair and just environment for refugees in Canada. Its vision is that refugees in the Waterloo Region experience welcome, compassion, inclusion, and justice.
MCRS was created in 1987 by several Mennonite churches in Waterloo Region and even though the organization has Mennonite roots, it serves people of all faiths. It is the only agency in Waterloo Region dedicated exclusively to the service of refugee claimants.
What kind of services does MCRS offer?
MCRS helps refugee claimants understand the refugee claim process and to settle in a new community. It also works to raise awareness of the unique struggles and strengths of refugee claimants in the local Mennonite constituency and the broader community.
The process of seeking refugee status is very long, confusing and frustrating, especially for people may not speak English or have any friends or family in Canada. Refugee claimants face many unique struggles because they cannot obtain permanent resident status for many months and often years. They survive and thrive because they are strong, resourceful people.
Since 1987 MCRS has been providing refugee claimants with support during their claims process and settlement. MCRS is often the first place they come to for help, and the support it provides gives them hope in the middle of a process that can very discouraging. They receive one-on-one help and support from staff and volunteers; a team I’m really honoured to be part of.
Each day new families arrive in Kitchener-Waterloo. Each one has a unique story and needs. Today, MCRS provides help to over 400 refugee families from all over the world. Its open door brings hope to women and men struggling to rebuild their lives.
My roles and responsibilities
I started my volunteer job with MCRS in May 1st. The first week was my orientation week in which I got to learn a lot of things about MCRS, the complex refugee claim process as well as my anticipated roles and responsibilities during the course of my internship. The director of MCRS gave me a general but important overview of MCRS, and she took another intern and myself on a tour around the Centre and introduced us to their very friendly and welcoming staff members and caseworkers. Furthermore, I got to review various materials and resources pertaining to the refugee claim process to familiarize myself with, and I also shadowed some of the caseworkers as they assisted client/refugee claimants with making a refugee claim, applying for work permits, and applying for Permanent Residence (PR) in Canada.
During the second and third week, I continued shadowing caseworkers. During this time, I also had the opportunity to visit some of MCRS’ partner organizations such as the Welcome Home Centre, the Reception House, the Speak English Café, and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in Kitchener, Ontario. MCRS has other partner organizations that I look forward to visiting in the near future including ShamRose, Lutherwood Housing Services, the Working Center, and YWCA Shelter. In collaboration with these organization, MCRS is in a position to offer very valuable assistance and support to refugee claimants.
During my time here, I was also able to participate in the 30th anniversary of MCRS, which took place on May 13th. Attending this event enabled me to interact with many refugees, MCRS donors as well as other distinguished guests. It was a great opportunity to make new friends and connections, take part in a very well organized event, and try some tasty food!
Over the course of the following weeks, I continued to shadow caseworkers while occasionally helping clients with filling out their work permit applications. I also assisted some refugee claimants with calling Legal Aid Ontario and applying for Social Assistance for them.
Since quality translation is one of the major services that MCRS freely offers to refugee claimants, I developed a translation and interpretation manual for MCRS’ translation and interpretation volunteers. This manual will serve as a guide for all translation and interpretation projects carried out at MCRS. It is worth noting that MCRS is committed to providing its clients with the best translation possible, and as such the need for quality translators is crucial.
So far, my experience at MCRS has been an awesome one, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! I’m really glad to be part of this people-oriented, welcoming, and compassionate organization. I look forward to working with my own clients from the start to the end soon. I look forward to participating in the upcoming events organized by MCRS, to continuing to build friendships and relationships with MCRS clients and refugee claimants, and lastly, to continue learning, growing, and making a positive difference in the lives of those around me.
Amgad is a student in the 5th Cohort of the Master’s of Development Practice Program. His research interests are in urban development, local food systems, women empowerment, project development, green economy, minority rights, conflict resolution and peace building.