“Matthew House is a good place”
“It made me happy to work at Matthew House Ottawa’s furniture bank because I knew I was helping others and it also helped me” - Alexis
Each month we share interviews and stories of people impacted by our work. Enjoy!
What is your name? Alexis
Where are you from? Cuba
How did you come to Canada?
I came to Canada to work at the Embassy of Cuba. After about a year, I applied for refugee protection in Canada.
How did you get connected to Matthew House Ottawa?
The Catholic Centre for Immigrants helped me to apply as a refugee and referred me to Matthew House Ottawa (MHO). I arrived at the house in May 2014 and stayed until June after my refugee claimant hearing.
What is a fond memory from Matthew House Ottawa?
Matthew House is a good place and I liked living at the house. I shared a room with Rafael, who spoke Spanish, and that helped me a lot because most of the residents were from Africa and spoke French. I understand French but I can’t speak it.
I couldn’t work or study except to take English language classes. MHO staff suggested I meet with David Botha, program director at MHO’s furniture bank to find out how I could help. He explained that I could volunteer at the furniture bank while I waited for my refugee claim to be approved. On my first shift, Rafael and I delivered furniture the clients had selected for their homes. We worked with a volunteer who spoke Spanish and this was very helpful to us. It was such a positive experience that I decided to volunteer on a regular basis. I really enjoyed working with David and all the volunteers. It made me happy to work at the furniture bank because I knew I was helping others and it also helped me.
What was an average day like for you at Matthew House Ottawa?
Everyone was very friendly. I had a good relationship with all the volunteers and I’m still in contact with Rafael, Kailee (the former refugee services program coordinator ) and my social worker.
We did a lot of activities together. We went to the beach and played football and volleyball every week. We took the bus downtown or to Kanata. This helped us get to know the city and how to get around. We organized social get-togethers at the house and I always liked to prepare and cook the food. Some of the other residents pitched in as well. This helped me to feel comfortable around other people and share more about my life.
What was your favourite part about being at Matthew House?
I really enjoyed the social get-togethers with the residents. I could see how happy everyone felt when we were together. I appreciated having access to a computer at the house to stay in contact with my family to make sure they were safe. I would also use it to research recipes to make new meals.
What did you do after you left Matthew House Ottawa?
I got a part-time job at a Cuban restaurant on Bank Street and I moved into a house with a roommate. The landlord was very nice and helpful. I started to meet people who were from my country and I eventually got another job at a retirement home in Kanata.
What were some of the challenges you faced since leaving Matthew House Ottawa?
One of the hardest parts was moving out of Matthew House and leaving my friends. I had a very good relationship with everyone. I missed seeing the residents and volunteers on a regular basis. After I started working, I would come back to MHO on my day off to spend time with my friends and help with the cooking.
By Barb Koppe with files from Rachel Burgis. Interviews have been edited for clarity.
Wanna help? Here is how you can change lives through Matthew House Ottawa:
Donate: $25 provides a refugee like Alexis with a bed, food, and settlement support for a day. Or you can you can furnish an entire home for $204.
Ride for Refuge: Create a team and ride/walk for Matthew House Ottawa on October 5th.
Pray: for past, present and future residents and furniture bank clients
Since 2010, Matthew House Ottawa has housed hundreds of refugee claimants, and provided free, quality used furniture to about 5000 families in need. We have done this as a large, dedicated team of volunteers and a small handful of employees, with a lot of passion and commitment. We invite you to join us!