Welcoming Syrian Refugees Y Stories YMCA Global Initatives

Welcoming committee: How Ron and Melanie became community ambassadors

ron and melanie kitchen smiling

We’re celebrating Peace Week from November 19-26, and as part of the celebrations, we recognize the peacemakers creating change in their communities. Ron and Melanie Kitchen, longtime Oshawa residents, demonstrate empathy in their community by listening and understanding diverse perspective to create a sense of belonging for all.

Ron and Melanie Kitchen initially started their work to help Syrian refugees—and in turn, became peacemakers for the residents of Oshawa.

In 2015, the government of Canada announced that 25,000 refugees from Syria would be resettled in Canada. When the Kitchens approached the Islamic Centre of Oshawa to help with sponsoring refugees, it was at a crucial point in time where the Centre and its members were subject to many acts of Islamophobia, bigotry and racism. Not only did the Kitchens encourage the Centre to take part in the sponsorship initiative, but they did so with an organization that they were not members of, nor with which they shared the same faith.

The Kitchens were instrumental in assisting the sponsorship group by securing and furnishing accommodation for the new families, and even made themselves available to welcome families at the airport. This unique gesture helped to break down many barriers to promote peace—not just within the Centre, but also had a profound effect on the 12 families that have been sponsored as a result. The Kitchens have reached out to countless Syrian newcomers and have become an integral resource to other sponsorship groups, and have built bridges between the Islamic Centre of Oshawa and other faith-based organizations.

The involvement of the Kitchens with the Islamic Centre through the sponsorship of refugees has helped to build bridges by showing the Centre’s congregation that those who commit acts of hatred do not represent the residents of Oshawa as a whole.  The Kitchens have actively encouraged their family and friends to visit the Centre in hopes of dispelling any misinformation they may have. As a result, the first impression that a (Syrian) newcomer has had upon seeing the Kitchens’ involvement with a mosque is one of peace and acceptance.

The Kitchens not only advocate for peace and harmony within the communities of Oshawa, but also truly believe in equality and empowerment of all human beings, irrespective of religion, race or gender.

To learn more about Peace Week and what’s happening in your community, click here.