Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year

I hope this season finds you and your family in good shape.

This week I had the privilege of visiting the new offices in Waterloo for Mennonite Economic Development Associates,

And I was pleased to meet a number of farmers who support this outstanding organization that now works in 62 countries, teaching and coaching people trapped in poverty how they can launch businesses that lift them into a better economic situation and future.

Bardash Chaggar, the local Member of Parliament and House Leader for the Liberal government, came to the MEDA open house and announced $15 million for MEDA to work with women and children in Senegal.

Then the next morning I read that United States President Donald Trump is tightening the rules for those who need help to acquire enough food, commonly called the Food Stamp program.

What a contrast between governments! 

This year my wife and I went twice to the Southern United States to help local organizations document the needs of people whose homes have been wrecked by hurricanes.

In Victoria, Texas, high winds ripped off rooves.

In Central Florida, the winds also ripped off rooves, but in too many cases rains continue to flood the interiors of the most humble of dwellings, giving rise to moulds that endanger the health of parents and children. Some were taking their families to back-yard sheds to sleep on the ground to get them out of the mould. There is no alternative housing available in those communities.

Here in Kitchener, we met a family from Honduras. They fled after the husband was shot by hoodlums who demanded money.

He and his wife and young son are “existing” in a one-room bedroom provided by refugees from Nicaragua.

Here in Kitchener-Waterloo, it is also next to impossible to find affordable housing. I don’t know how this family is going to make out, but they are determined to make a new life in Canada.

One of my passions is volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Waterloo Region. Mostly I help a crew of “termites” that volunteers to remove kitchens for people renovating for new ones. We do it for free, saving the homeowners at least $1,000 and saving the cabinets for sale to someone who wants and needs them.

When they sell at the ReStore, the donors receive a charitable-donation tax receipt.

I also volunteer at the build site for a 45-unit townhouse complex. So far 28 have been built, another six are partially up and there are plans to begin another six-plex in the spring.

A number of families buying these homes were refugees from various troubled parts of the world. They need to contribute 500 volunteer hours to qualify, but are able to buy a home with no down-payment and a no-interest mortgage. They pay it off at the rate of 25 per cent of their annual household income.

Habitat for Humanity is not enough to come anywhere close to meeting the needs in our community, but it is something.

I hope you and your family find opportunities this coming year to help less fortunate people.

May God bless you to be a blessing!