Seeking refuge in Sudan was the start of a life-changing experience for Freawet Mega, who is originally from Eritrea. After two years in Sudan, the university student came to Canada in 2004 as a government-sponsored refugee.
Her entrepreneurial drive led her to start the three businesses she now operates: a limousine service, a janitorial and housekeeping service and a hair extensions business that also creates wigs for cancer patients and those experiencing hair loss. As a result, she was able to support her mother and brothers, who remained in Sudan.
A meeting with Fikre Tsehai, CLWR’s Refugee and Migration Policy Advisor, at Advent Lutheran Church in Calgary, which Freawet attends, began a similar life-changing process for her mother and brothers. In partnership with the church, Freawet was able to sponsor her older brother, who came to Canada in 2008. Her mother and younger brother arrived in Canada in 2016, after a seven-year process.
For Freawet, ‘exciting’ doesn’t really capture her feelings at welcoming her family to Canada.
“Exciting is not the right word…this is life-changing,” she says. “It changed their life and my life. They’re safe here. It’s huge.”
In Eritrea, her family ran their own business and she and her brothers were in school. Once they arrived in Canada, they wanted to pick up where they left off. With the support of Freawet and the church, her family members have found jobs, are learning English and are exploring volunteer opportunities.
“They’re doing extremely well. They look like they’ve been here a long time,” says Freawet, speaking of her family members. “They’re changing their lives.”
Freawet’s mother, who is a professional fashion designer and used to own a fashion design school in Eritrea, is hosting workshops this summer focusing on Calgary’s manufacturing abilities to make life better for people experiencing hair loss. Her younger brother is enrolled in a mechanics internship and her older brother is working and supporting his family. The sponsorship of Freawet’s uncle is currently underway.
Sponsoring refugees and supporting them as they begin new lives in Canada can enrich Canadian society, as refugees bring and share their talents and skills, says Freawet. Though there may be challenges refugees face when they first arrive, the sponsorship they receive can provide them with opportunities to change their lives. And one sponsorship can have a ripple effect, changing many more lives.
“To be able to help those people, to bring them here, it’s not only changing one person,” explains Freawet. “The government brought me here, they changed my life and look at how many lives I’ve been changing.”
Ellen Paulley is the Communications Manager for Canadian Lutheran World Relief
Photo: Freawet (left) stands with her brother Fani, mother Elsa and brother Fili. Photo provided by Freawet Mega.
Are you or your congregation interested in sponsoring refugees? Click here to learn about the process