“Helping people because people matter” is the motto of the Middle Eastern Friendship Centre (MEFC). Its founders, Adel & Layla Masoud, are two of the most inspiring Christians I have met. They have their own story of hardship, fleeing from Kuwait and coming to Canada in 1997. Now, they feel called to share the love of God with newcomers by giving them a warm welcome to Canada.
The MEFC is a place where “Arabs can meet together, learn from one another, and help one another”. The visitors are mainly Arab newcomers, many of them refugees, who find in the center a safe space to build friendship and to receive help in a wide range of areas that go from job searching to assistance with Canadian tax forms.
Although the center is focused on Arabic culture, visitors from other backgrounds also attend the center. In the same way, volunteers are welcomed regardless of their cultural background, knowledge of Arabic culture, or proficiency in Arab—although any of these are great assets.
Several members of our community have been serving regularly in the MEFC this semester: Noah Bradley, Mary Kate Looby, Andrea Rodriguez, Amy Saya, Sarah Kazanowski, Jordan Koslowsky and myself. It feels like we have been welcomed into a new family where Layla, Adel, the whole staff and visitors of the center have received us with open arms offering their friendship.
We have volunteered by giving ESL classes, playing with the kids while their parents are studying, distributing the donations received, participating in padlocks and community meals and helping out with various chores in the center. Most importantly, we have met amazing people from very different backgrounds and unique stories who are seeking a new life in Canada.
Layla expressed her interest in having volunteers that come to the center for the right reasons: to share the love of Christ, offer their time in friendship and service for others, and treat the visitors with dignity and affection. We as volunteers leave behind the stereotypes, the “us versus them” mentality, or any “hero complex” that hinders the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts, and approach our service with humbleness and willingness to learn from them as well.
Noah Bradley, a 4th year TWU student, was our most active volunteer. He shares his experience while serving as an ESL teacher this semester:
The most valuable thing about teaching English at the MEFC was seeing the enthusiasm and laughter of the students while they were learning. Without those two things, I think the personal connection wouldn’t have been made. You could clearly see that they were happy to be there. I think that gave everyone joy and a special connection.
Joy, friendship, warmth and generosity are some of the things that make the MEFC a home for everyone that visits.
If you want to be a part of the Middle Eastern Friendship Center, here´s your chance! We need volunteers from the TWU community who are staying in the Lower Mainland for the summer and that feel call to give part of their time to share the love of Christ with this newcomers to Canada. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information about your options.