“They opened the gate for me; I have no words.”

Primary Media
A woman wearing a headscarf stands in her kitchen smiling at the camera.
Credit: Provided by Almaz Fesshaye
Published On: July 11, 2023

When Almaz Fesshaye and her two young children arrived in Canada in 1991, they did not know what to expect. None of them knew the language or culture but hoped and prayed that Canada would be a safer place than Eritrea, a war-torn country in Eastern Africa.

Leaving Eritrea could have meant the difference between life and death. “Everyone had to be a soldier,” Almaz describes, before sharing the sombre note that “people have died trying to escape.” She was devastated to have to flee her home and frightened by not knowing what would come next.

When Almaz and her two children—then aged four and six—arrived in Alberta, they were greeted with warmth and love by members of Gaetz Memorial United Church. “They opened the gate for me; I have no words,” she says with gratitude. “They changed my life, starting from getting furniture, renting a place to live, helping me with the language, and support for my kids.”

Almaz describes the congregation and community as “selfless and kind.” The church was one block from the family’s new home, and Almaz says, “My son was very forgetful, so I gave the church secretary an extra key.”

Now settled in Red Deer, Alberta, Almaz is joyfully giving back to her community. She works in social services and offers her time as a volunteer with local programs that help people experiencing homelessness and poverty. She is also passionate about helping other refugees learn the local culture and language.

Your gifts to Mission and Service help support life-changing programming and staffing to support families seeking safety.

Almaz has some words for anyone considering supporting refugee programs through Mission and Service: “Don’t think twice! It doesn’t have to be millions—whatever you give means a lot. If it is financial, educational, time, knowledge, it means a lot. You are saving the lives of human beings and making the world better.”

Thank you for your generosity.