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Refugee youth at 2022 Connect City summer camp. Credit Connect City.

Four congregations in Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba have been approved to receive grants from the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Spirit of MDS Fund.

In Toronto, Connect City, which is part of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, will use a grant of $5,000 from the Fund to assist refugee youth.

According to Colin McCartney, pastor at Connect City, these youth are suffering various forms of PTSD, poverty, homelessness, loneliness, and mental health challenges—in addition to trying to navigate life in a new country.

One way the church will assist them is by once again offering a summer camp that allows youth to get out of the cramped quarters of the shelter where they live, which is located in an old hotel.

Connect City ran the camp for the first time in 2022. “The response was very positive,” McCartney said. “Having large families forced to live in small hotel rooms creates a great need for children, and youth, to get out and do things with others.”

Also in Ontario, the Niagara United Mennonite Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake will use a grant of $5,000 to build a laundry facility to seasonal workers who come to the area each year from Jamaica and Mexico to work on local farms.

The workers are housed by local farmers. In many cases, said Kathy Rempel, a member of the church, the housing is adequate and workers are satisfied. But one thing that is lacking is a good facility for laundry.

“This area does not have a single laundromat available for public use,” she said, noting that money from the Spirit of MDS Fund will be used by the church, which is part of Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, to build the new laundromat.

While a local construction company will be used to build the facility, volunteers from the church will do finishing jobs such as painting and decorating.

In B.C., Sherbrooke Mennonite Church in Vancouver will use a grant of $5,000 to expand its services for newcomers in the city, such as refugee claimants and new immigrants.

Support from the Fund is helpful, said church pastor Kevin Barkowsky, since the number of people looking for assistance from the church has increased. At the same time, the church is expanding its assistance by providing non-food products such as personal hygiene items, menstrual products, laundry detergent and dish washing soap.

“Most of our recipient families are refugee claimants and new immigrants who arrived in 2022,” he said, adding “expanding our services will improve the lives of families and individuals by providing them with food and non food items that allow them to use the little money they have for other needs.”

The church is part of Mennonite Church B.C.

In Manitoba, the Steinbach Mennonite Brethren Church will use a grant of $3,000 to support free English classes to newcomers to the area so they can apply for educational and other programs. This includes over 80 families who arrived from Ukraine in the last year—something that caused the need for English classes to “skyrocket,” said Community Life Pastor Kelby Friesen.

The money will be used to upgrade the church’s classroom space, including new whiteboards.

“Our classes are running at their max with a waiting list,” said Friesen, adding they are adding additional classes to meet the need.

The new whiteboards and other supplies “will help to improve the quality of our classroom and the quality of teaching we are able to provide to the students,” he said.

The congregation is part of the Mennonite Brethren Church of Manitoba.

The goal of the MDS Canada Spirit of MDS Fund is to support the efforts of local congregations in Canada to be the hands and feet of Jesus in their communities. Grants are available to churches to help them assist people in the community who are experiencing a crisis or other needs such as for home repairs, food or other needed resources, along with ministry and service projects in a community, or other creative ideas.

For more information, or to apply, visit www.mds.org/spirit-of-mds-fund.


John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications

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