Located in the heart of the city at Christie and Bloor, the Christie Refugee Welcome Centre (CRWC) has provided emergency shelter and a warm welcome for refugee families from all ethnic, racial or religious backgrounds for over 30 years.
The Centre operates a 32-room shelter with space for 78 refugees arriving from war-torn countries across the world. In addition to matching families with legal support for refugee claims, the Centre provides assistance in securing housing and employment, and an outreach program for those that are living outside the shelter to help prepare and support them in establishing a new life in Canada.
Upon entering the back garden, it is immediately apparent that CRWC is much more than the services it offers. From the clients gathered at the picnic tables happily sharing stories from their day to the children cheerfully greeting staff as they return from school, it’s clear that they have found community – a sense of family – in a safe and loving space.
Maria, the Kitchen and Weekend Supervisor at CRWC, plays a pivotal role in nurturing that strong sense of community through the meals she lovingly creates in the Centre’s kitchen. She describes with great passion the recipes she crafts from the food donations provided by Daily Bread. “Sometimes we get a lot of one item,” she says, pausing briefly to accept an air hug from one of the clients passing by. “It’s so much fun to think of what we can make. If we get a lot of eggs, we can make muffins, or frittata. The possibilities are endless when you use your imagination and cook with love.”
Maria admits it’s not always easy. “The cost of groceries keeps going up, but our food budget stays the same. It doesn’t get us as much as it used to, so we are deeply grateful to Daily Bread for the food they provide.”
When asked what brings her joy in what can sometimes be a very difficult job, Maria smiles and says, “The clients. When they come back to visit and they look so different. You can see they are starting to develop their own individual selves; they are able to grow and mature.” Seeing that transformation is what makes it all worthwhile for Maria.
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