Kurdish Initiative for Refugees in Winnipeg

Helping others, despite great loss

On Thurs., Sept. 23, area resident and refugee advocate Maysoun Darweesh will receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Award and Vice-Regal Award for her service to Winnipeg’s Syrian and Yazidi refugees.

Maysoun’s husband Nour spearheaded much of the couple’s compassionate work until his untimely death in a boating accident on Lake Winnipeg last summer. Nour was a leader in the Yazidi and refugee communities, and his passing left a huge gap, but Maysoun continued his community work even as she grieved the loss of her husband.

I first met Nour, Maysoun and their two daughters at events for refugees new to Canada who had escaped political persecution. The couple felt an obligation to pay forward the kindness they’d received from their sponsor, Douglas Mennonite Church, to others arriving here with similar needs to their own when they first came.

The Kurdish Initiative for Refugees was formed and offered safe, friendly places and practical help to newcomers needing assistance with housing, translation, doctor’s visits, settlement services and schools. Nour and Maysoun pioneered a family and youth program to help young people adjust to life in Canada and they organized summer camps for hundreds of refugee children eager to practise English, play games and learn about human rights. Many children from these camps now attend university and aspire to contribute to their new home in Manitoba.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Maysoun organized volunteers to deliver meals at Grace Hospital to support healthcare workers. In spite of her grief and caring for two teenage daughters, Maysoun could not stop making time to care for others, too; often telling people, “Whenever you need anything, I am here.”

Maysoun’s example of resilience, compassion and sacrificial concern for others make her a worthy recipient of this year’s Lieutenant Governor and Vice-Regal Awards.

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