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Loren Balisky

Your Pandemic FAQs Answered

July 23, 2020 by Loren Balisky

These are the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about refugee claimants and the Kinbrace community amid the ongoing pandemic.  

The Canada-USA border is closed.  How is this affecting the number of people making claims for refugee protection in Canada?

The federal government closed the Canada-US border on 18 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This created a significant barrier for those questing  through the USA toward Canada for protection.  Each year the majority of people who make refugee claims in Canada arrive overland via the Canada-US border.  With the border closed, fewer people are making refugee claims.

Source:  canada.ca

Are lower numbers of refugee claimants affecting Kinbrace’s work?

No. The pandemic hyper-exposes those who are already vulnerable, meaning there’s more risk for refugee claimants.  Government processing systems have been upended and are re-ordering, resulting in refugee claimants seeking information and support.

How has my support helped refugee claimants so far through the pandemic?

Within the Kinbrace community in East Vancouver, there’s a profound “family” feel, a closeness and intimacy.  This may stem from the shared pandemic experience, staying put together, and receiving your critical and timely support.  This expressed experience of belonging and connectedness amid forced displacement is profound.  Your invisible presence makes the community safe, vibrant, and trusting in the midst of uncertainty.

The quest for permanent housing remains important among Kinbrace residents, even though it abruptly stopped mid-March with lockdown and resulting uncertainty.  Three families recently moved into permanent homes, solidifying their experience of settlement and wellbeing. Their move creates vacancy in the Kinbrace transitional housing community, providing openings for those refugee claimants abiding in shelters across Metro Vancouver.  It’s your steadfast solidarity amid their chaos of finding home that brings stability.

Thousands of refugee claimants in BC and across the country have been waiting for refugee hearings to resume. Your support is adapting READY Tours in collaboration with the Canadian government so that each person waiting for their refugee hearing can learn and prepare appropriately.  If you’re interested in more detail, visit www.refugeeclaim.ca

I heard Kinbrace’s Tuesday community dinners have started again. Can I come?

Regrettably, no. While your presence is valued, guests/volunteers/neighbours/former residents are currently asked to not attend Tuesday community dinners (which resumed in June) as per guidelines from the health authorities.  Until further notice, community dinners are only for those living in the houses; currently, two staff members attend per week – at a distance – to help with cooking, set up, and clean-up.  

 

 

Mark Janousek

Tears, Home, and this Pandemic – #givingtuesdaynow

May 4, 2020 by Loren Balisky

My eyes well-up with tears when loss and unexpected love intermingle.  It’s happened several times to me during this pandemic.  Perhaps you’ve experienced the same.

Most recently for me, at last Tuesday’s weekly Kinbrace community meeting where residents hosted a Sending Circle (a time to remember and bless the person or family moving from Kinbrace).  This Sending Circle was for a senior couple who, after many, many years of forced displacement, finally received permanent, affordable housing.  They moved from Kinbrace to their new home on Friday.

There was laughter around the Sending Circle.  And there were tears.  Mine came when one of the single mothers began to speak her gratitude for “papa” and “mama” but then, putting her hands to her face, cried softly.  Her tears and the strong hugs she gave papa and mama spoke to me about that wordless space where loss and unexpected love mix.

Every family around the circle was only half there, beloved others scattered around the world by forced displacement.  COVID-19 severely amplifies the loss and fear people feel while separated from family.  And, yet, around this circle of unlikely, diverse, fractured families, the words “brother” “sister” “father “mother” were used numerous times. 

This vulnerable place, where loss and unexpected love can honestly be felt and expressed by people seeking refugee protection, is sustained by the wide network of donors and volunteers.  

The fact that “mama” and “papa” secured a safe and permanent home in the middle of this pandemic, is thanks to the persistence and expertise grounded Kinbrace’s champions.

If you’ve not had a chance to support this vulnerability and change, and would like to, you can start now.

You won't see the usual Kinbrace Tuesday dinner food preparation now, with COVID-19 . Photo credit: Loren Balisky

COVID-19 stops Tuesday dinners, but community thrives in a new way

April 7, 2020 by Loren Balisky

Suspending Tuesday dinners for COVID-19 in mid-March felt apocalyptic, the end of the world as we knew it.

Weekly meals in this community of welcome for people seeking refugee protection started in 1998 around our family dining table.  These meals immediately became the centre point of the week, a kind of sacred gathering of volunteers and guests with Kinbrace residents, former residents, neighbours, and staff.  From the beginning, we learned that sharing food brought the Kinbrace community together in a way nothing else could.

I deeply respect the courage new Kinbrace residents exhibit attending a Tuesday dinner.  There’s vulnerability in taking up the invitation of strangers.   In the first years living at Kinbrace, Tama and I observed an average of 6 weeks before a new resident would come to dinner.  Trust was a first ingredient.

For the first eight years of Kinbrace’s story, I did most of the cooking for Tuesday dinners.  When meal preparation and dining moved next door in 2005 with the acquisition of a new house, it created space for others to cook, and we started eating the wonder of the world:  tamales, njera ba wat, Aztec soup, ghormeh sabzi, bamia, dolma, kusheri……!

Delicious food and an open door have a way of gathering a crowd and, by 2011, we had a bit of problem on our hands with too many people attending Tuesday dinners.  With ever-increasing numbers, we observed a decrease in attendance by new Kinbrace residents.  The social connectedness and joyous noise of old-timers seemed to create barriers to belonging for the newest among us.

Concerned we were losing our way, Emily Parsons Dickau (Community Building Coordinator at the time) helped us in 2012 to reorient, rediscover, and proclaim the deep purpose of Tuesday dinners:  to welcome the newest residents living at Kinbrace.

We continue to learn that hospitality is at its best when it’s generously spacious and keenly focused.

While COVID-19 suspends Kinbrace community dinners, we decided to mark the traditional, sacred dinner space with Kinbrace residents meeting weekly in the late afternoon on Tuesdays, sitting in a wide circle in the back yard, for a facilitated check-in, telling stories of the week, expressing concerns or needs, and hearing from each other, voices and perspectives from seven countries representing four continents.

There’s a distinct strangeness being gathered with no food to share.  It’s simply not the normal Kinbrace experience.  Yet, the shared experience of sheltering in place against the COVID-19 plague seems an unexpected recipe that’s leading the community to an unusual familiarity and care for each other midst diversity and vulnerability.

Photo: Mark Janousek

Belonging starts here

January 21, 2020 by admin

By Anika Barlow, as published in the Vancouver Sun.

I live in East Vancouver just off Commercial Drive. My house looks like a nondescript “Vancouver Special” from the street, but it’s far from ordinary by our city’s standards. Over the past two years, I have shared my home with more than 50 people from over a dozen countries.

On Tuesdays, we cook and eat dinner together, and most other days we share tea in each others’ apartments or conversation in the backyard. While Vancouver suffers from a crisis of isolation, my own days unfold within a rich community. I live with refugee claimants.

Continue Reading →

Kinbrace

A Vision for the Future

May 9, 2019 by Derek Chu

A season of strategic visioning – a message from the Board of Directors

Thanks to you – whether you are one of Kinbrace’s visionary founders, a generous donor, a volunteer, a staff person, a person who has lived (or is living) the refugee experience, a neighbour, or elsewise connected – we have reached 21 years in our shared journey, striving to create a world of welcome, a life of opportunity, and a community of belonging for each person seeking refugee protection in Canada.

In March 2019, the Board initiated a season of strategic visioning, asking the question:  Where should Kinbrace go in the next 5-10 years?

First, an update on our senior leadership.  There have been a few communications to Kinbrace donors and supporters during the past year, advising of Loren Balisky’s future with the organization.  Among other communications, the Board of Directors announced at Kinbrace’s 20th Anniversary (June 2018) that Loren would be stepping down from the Executive Director role.

To prepare for this change, the Kinbrace Board retained a recruiter to help the organization hire a new Executive Director. After some deep listening, the recruiter advised the Board that Kinbrace wasn’t ready for a new Executive Director. With faith and courage, the Board stopped the recruitment process and discerned a different course, which included a decision to offer Loren a 9-month sabbatical leave, April-December 2019.

The Board has directed Loren to rest, refresh, and write during the sabbatical.  While Loren is away, a vibrant, dedicated staff team is in place and growing. Long-timer Emily Parsons Dickau (Director of Programs) and newly-hired Derek Chu (Director of Operations) will co-lead the organization, supported by the Board of Directors.  

If you are a volunteer, donor, or former resident, you will likely hear from and get to know new people joining the Kinbrace staff team.  Please welcome them if you get a chance, and let them know your heart for, and history of, welcoming people seeking refugee protection.

Meanwhile, the Board of Directors is creatively and diligently engaging staff, former Kinbrace residents and refugee claimants, donors, and others to envision Kinbrace’s future.  It is a season of dreaming, anticipating, and planning.

When your imagination intersects with the resilience of each person seeking refugee protection, the results are authentic and transformational.  I invite your continued support and input through this season of strategic visioning.

I’d like to Donate

I have a question or comment, please email: chairperson@kinbrace.ca

Thank you,

Chris Wiesinger

Chairperson

On behalf of the Kinbrace Board of Directors

Trixie Ling

Flavours of Hope Summer Food Market

July 25, 2018 by admin

Flavours of Hope is running a market pilot with Kinbrace from June-August 2018 to celebrate traditional food, culture and stories of refugee newcomer women in our community. Through the summer food market, newcomer women are empowered to earn a living wage, build social connections and learn about food entrepreneurship in the hospitality industry. The women are building relationships and networks in the community, and gaining experience and employment opportunity to work in the food sector. Continue Reading →

Illustrator: Anna Bron

So we ran….

March 6, 2018 by Loren Balisky

If you didn’t get a chance to read the comic-style posters telling refugee stories at Vancouver bus-stops earlier this year, here’s your chance.

The Mokhovikova family’s story is a powerful witness to the resilience and courage required in the face of forced displacement.  Learn more details in this Vancouver Sun article by Lori Culbert where you’ll also see snippets of the outstanding comic by Anna Bron.

This also points to the profound impact you and I can have in the lives of people running for safety.  A warm welcome creates safety in the moment and hope for the future.

Gratitude to the Mokhovikova family for generously sharing their story.

Thanks also to Cloudscape Comics, the City of Vancouver, and the Province of BC for bringing these remarkable and vulnerable stories to the public’s attention in a dignifying way.

Photo: Mark Janousek

Trust affirms dignity

December 18, 2016 by Loren Balisky

The forced displacement of millions in our world creates an opportunity to welcome, in trust, those who leave their homes and families to protect themselves from persecution.  Trust is a gift we give and receive in a world troubled by fear and suspicion. Continue Reading →

What happens when…?

May 13, 2016 by Loren Balisky

What happens when we follow the lead of one boy, inviting us to welcome refugee claimants?

Astonishing generosity that truly turns our world around.

Watch this 30-second video to see how we, together, raised more than $65,000. Continue Reading →