Compassion for new Canadians drives Winston Park’s Lorna van Mossel
On Oct. 11, a group of eight women were recognized in Kitchener Waterloo for their contributions to the community through the annual K-W Oktoberfest Rogers Women of the Year tribute.
Winston Park’s Lorna van Mossel stood among them as the lifetime achievement recipient, recognized for the compassion and dedication to the principles of fairness and social justice that rings clearly when you speak with her.
Lorna moved to Kitchener-Waterloo with her husband, Bert, a Presbyterian minister, when the world was in a state of upheaval during the Vietnam War.
The displacement and confusion that came with the war presented many challenges across the globe. Together they addressed a need by helping Southeast Asian refugees settle into their new Canadian homes.
“People were coming in big numbers . . . and our church had sponsored people and we got involved with them very closely,” she recalls, adding that she’d see new Canadians around town and would naturally offer to help if they faced challenges.
“I care about people,” she says simply.
One day she and Bert had offered a young boy a ride home and when they arrived at his apartment, they quickly learned how an unscrupulous landlord was taking advantage of the vulnerable refugee family.
The idea of a settlement program called Friendship Families was born when Lorna and Bert connected this new family with an established one in the community, “and it took off like a house on fire,” she says.
Since then, the settlement of new Canadians has never been far from Lorna’s mind.
“I’m still doing it, really, you don’t ever stop,” she says, though she may be slowed slightly these days as her eyesight fails.
This isn’t the first award Lorna has received at Oktoberfest, she says, recalling a number of years ago when she was recognized for community service, but this award was “certainly very nice” to receive.
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