August 8, 2014 -- As Canadians, we are fortunate to count ourselves among the most privileged of the seven billion people living in the world today. And thanks to the outstanding quality of life we enjoy, each year, Canada draws thousands of people from around the world, some of whom have fled hardships difficult for us to imagine.
It is estimated that there are more than 10 million refugees in the world today, approximately 100,000 of whom resettle in other countries like Canada, which welcomes up to 14,500 of these newcomers each year.
Recognizing that their drive to build a better life benefits our city, Greater Toronto REALTORS® lend a hand to refugees through the Ontario REALTORS Care® Foundation, which supports shelter-related charities throughout the province.
One such organization is Matthew House – a community of three homes in central Toronto that welcomes and assists newly arrived refugee claimants. Its founder Anne Woolger worked for many years at a city-operated shelter and upon witnessing its shortcomings, she approached church leaders with her vision of establishing a reception home.
In 1998, the first of Matthew House's three shelters opened its doors and since that time the organization has served more than 1,000 refugees from 84 different countries.
As part of their stay, all guests are asked to complete daily assigned chores that contribute to the facilities' operations, while weekly orientation sessions, house meetings and communal meals offer the opportunity for residents to forge new friendships that serve as lifelong support systems.
The organization is even equipped to shelter and guide teens who have arrived in Canada on their own, with a designated transition home where house parents help young guests become oriented and set new goals surrounded by a sense of family and community.
According to Woolger, Greater Toronto REALTORS® are making an important contribution to the organization's efforts.
"They have helped us with practical things like our orientation program where we give really practical lessons to our refugee guests about life in Canada – transit, budgeting, all of those things – so that they can ultimately be better prepared for living in Canada and contribute in a more valuable way."
One of the organization's many success stories is that of Clement, a former high school principal from Zimbabwe whom Matthew House welcomed in December 2005. After earning his PhD in Education on a special scholarship at the University of Toronto, he became an instructor at Centennial College, and he now also serves on Matthew House's Board of Directors.
"I believe it's kind of a chain link where by feeling healed and whole here they can give back much more richly," says Woolger.
If you would like to support Matthew House with a financial contribution, a donation of gently used household items or by volunteering, please visit www. matthewhouse.ca where you can find out more about this outstanding organization.
As well, for further information about the many ways that Greater Toronto REALTORS® are making important contributions to the shelter needs of those less fortunate throughout our city, please visit www.TorontoRealEstateBoard.com