This article originally appeared in the BVOR News published by RSTP October 2020, issue 25.
The hamlet of Neerlandia, Alberta is a two-hour drive north-west of Edmonton. For a small community, it has been doing outsize work in resettling refugees for more than 40 years, thanks to members of the Neerlandia Christian Reformed Church. Originally working with the World Renew SAH, the Neerlandia group has sponsored 20 families since 2000.
Family of five welcomed in August
This past August, they welcomed a BVOR family of five - a single mother and her four young children. The mother is a political refugee from Saudi Arabia who had found temporary
asylum in Malaysia. The mother has good English language skills, and "the children are adjusting in school; they are always happy to see visitors."
Quarantine worked well
The family lives in a mobile home, which worked well for their mandatory two-week quarantine following arrival. "We stocked the home before they came," the sponsor says. The family were picked up at the airport in two cars. Drivers and family members wore masks during the ride home. During the quarantine period the sponsors kept in touch by phone. "Some people visited outside, and it went quite well with masks," says the sponsor. "We are slowly getting to know them."
Over the years, the Neerlandia group has settled refugees from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Other recent BVOR families have come from Myanmar and Somalia. The newcomers have included professionals, fishers, farmers and tradespeople, says the sponsor. While most newcomers found work in Neerlandia during their first year, many eventually moved on to larger cities to further their children’s education or be closer to relatives.
Lasting impact on community
The impact of refugee sponsorship on the community has been profound and lasting. Many newcomers “still call Neerlandia home,” says the sponsor. Deep bonds and lasting friendships have been formed, with newcomer children calling sponsors Papa and Mama or Grandma and Grandpa.
“Our congregation has grown in compassion,” says the sponsor, “and Neerlandia children have developed a real appreciation for different cultures.”