Jocelyn Fitzgerald shares how St. Michael’s is making a difference through Partnership of Hope.
By Sara Francis
Jocelyn Fitzgerald is passionate about helping out refugee families. She has been at the helm of St. Michael’s Partnership of Hope since it started 14 years ago.
“I’ve always had a passion for the underprivileged,” said Fitzgerald. “Most of the refugees, it’s quite amazing, they can live off of little or nothing and they have everything versus, we…me.
“I cannot speak for everybody, but I think a lot of us in this world standard of living we live in [sic], we have everything and still have nothing — spiritually.
“They certainly taught me a big lesson in the beginning, and that’s what’s driven me to continue in it.”
Partnership of Hope began when Sudanese refugees came to Calgary. St. Michael’s School reached out to St. Michael Catholic Community for support because the Sudanese children were coming to school without the proper clothing.
“They didn’t really know any better,” said Fitzgerald.
It was then that St. Michael’s started supporting the families with friendship and material items.
Since 2003, St. Michael’s has helped groups from Sudan, Colombia, Eritrea, and Syria, raising $94,761 in donations to-date.
Recently, St. Michael’s supported a Syrian family for one year. And, in March, took on a second Syrian family. The family consists of two elderly parents in their 60s, and four adult children — two in their 20s, and two in their 30s. When they came to Canada, they didn’t speak English. Now, the children are enrolled in English classes, and the parents speak through a translator.
“It’s really hard because people want to volunteer, but when the family does not speak English, it’s really hard to volunteer,” said Fitzgerald.
When the family arrived, Fitzgerald put a notice in the parish bulletin to help furnish their place and within 24 hours it was completed.
“It was amazing. St. Michael’s is amazing for things like that,” said Fitzgerald.
St. Michael’s has committed to helping the family financially for one year.
“This current family, we support them 100 percent. All their income comes from us. That’s their rent, their heat, their cable, their groceries,” said Fitzgerald.
“If they can’t be on their own after a year, you can’t just cut them off. So after the year, we just play it by ear and see how much support they need,” said Fitzgerald.
She made some parish appeals after Mass and to-date, parishioners have generously raised more than $20,000 to support the family.
“I couldn’t imagine going to another country, learning another language, dealing with what they’ve dealt with,” said Fitzgerald.