‘Wesley goes Italian’ to help refugee family

Matt Gardner
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Wesley United Church, in collaboration with Amy’s on Second Restaurant, is hosting a pasta dinner and silent auction on Saturday, Feb. 1 to help raise funds to support a newly arrived refugee family from Myanmar. The family includes father Hea Nay Say, his wife Paw Thay Lah Say and their sons Hser Kler Taw, 12, and K Jole Say, 4.

Wesley United Church members are continuing their support of a refugee family from Myanmar in the form of an upcoming fundraiser with an Italian flavour.

Dubbed “Wesley Goes Italian,” the event takes place at the church on Saturday, Feb. 1 and will feature a pasta dinner and silent auction.

“We’re working with Amy Hadley from Amy’s on Second,” church outreach committee member Ruth Griffiths said. “Amy is a member of the congregation and she has very generously offered to help us out with preparing this food.

“Amy has a very good reputation in the community as a cook and supporting organizations other than the church, and (a) pasta evening is one of the easiest for us to do.”

Tickets cost $20 for adults and $10 for children aged 10 and under. Doors open at 6 p.m. with dinner served at 6:30 p.m.

All proceeds go directly into the church fund created to support the refugee family, who are members of Myanmar’s Karen minority, during their first year in Canada.

Family members include father Hea Nay Say, mother Paw Thay Lah Say and their two sons Hser Kler Taw, 12, and K Jole Say, 4.

“When they come as refugees, the government of Canada says to the refugees, ‘Your first priority is to learn English,’ -- or, I imagine, French, whatever the official language is,” Griffiths said.

“So in Prince Albert, the first year is to be spent getting themselves work-ready.”

Since their arrival last September, the family has gradually settled into life in Prince Albert and acclimatized to their new surroundings.

“They’re doing very well,” Griffiths said. “The kids are getting along in day care and school, and the parents are attending English language classes every day through the YWCA.

She added, “The mother’s English is excellent … She helped us out with our Christmas fundraiser and did very well. She was able to communicate well with those that she was working alongside.”

Hea Nay Say’s brother, Haenay Htoo, originally asked Wesley’s congregation whether they would be able to sponsor his sibling’s family after church members welcomed him and his own family to the city in 2007.

Griffiths recalled a conversation with a government employee in Regina regarding the high number of Karen people in Prince Albert.

In Prince Albert, the first year is to be spent getting themselves work-ready. Ruth Griffiths

“She said per capita, Prince Albert has the largest concentration of Karens in the province,” Griffiths noted. “I think that’s because seven years ago, churches got together and sponsored a bunch of Karen refugees. So this is just Level 2.”

The church has set itself the goal of raising $20,000 to support Hea Nay Say’s family during their first year in Prince Albert.

That sum is more than they expect the family to require for living expenses. Extra fund will go to cover the family’s flight to Canada, since the federal government pays for refugee flights to Canada under the proviso that it will eventually be paid back.

Griffiths estimated that the church is approximately one-quarter of the way to reaching its target.

“What we asked people to do was to pledge a certain amount per month,” she said. “So I’m not surprised that it’s coming along slowly because people are just plugging away.”

Wesley is hoping to raise between $2,000 and $3,000 at next Saturday’s fundraiser.

Preparations are well underway, with Hadley naturally taking the lead in the food department. Aside from sauces and meatballs, her staff will also be making the traditional Italian dessert Tiramisu.

“That’s going to be the pièce de résistance at this meal, and then the volunteers will be doing things like making homemade bread,” Griffiths said.

“There are two days we’re going to make 10 loaves each of beautiful bread, and we’ll be serving that at the table with the traditional olive oil and balsamic vinegar … We’re going to make some wonderful salads to go with the pasta and we’ll also have beverages for sale.”

Tickets for Wesley Goes Italian are available by calling the church office at (306) 763-5493 or Amy’s on Second Restaurant at (306) 763-1515.

See also:

Former refugees help P.A. church sponsor family

Organizations: YWCA

Geographic location: Canada, Myanmar, Regina

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