The donors: Bruce and Karen West
The gift: Raising $125,000 and climbing
The cause: Open Homes
When a refugee family from Central America arrived at the Mennonite Brethren church in Waterloo, Ont., they immediately became part of the congregation and played a role in worship services.
But the Fernandez family lost its bid to stay in Canada and they were separated and deported, with the father going to Colombia and the mother and two children to Costa Rica.
Bruce West and his wife, Karen, joined a group of people in the church who were determined to help bring the family back. “I thought I had to do something,” recalled Mr. West, who is the former chief financial officer at the Co-operators Group Ltd.. while Ms. West is a retired minister. “And the best thing I could do was help raise some money.”
In 2011, the Wests began participating in the Ride for Refuge, an annual event that raises money for charities involved in refugee issues including Open Homes, an organization that offers support to newly arrived refugees. The couple have been participating in the ride ever since and they’ve raised $125,000 in total.
After a three-year effort the family returned to Canada. Both parents trained for new jobs and they lived with the Wests who also helped the family buy a house. “They come to Canada to make a better life mostly for their kids,” said Mr. West. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for people that will just give up everything they have to come to this country and to be part of the social fabric.”