Immigration Partnership staff recently had the opportunity to sit down with a family living in Merrickville, the MacKay’s. All four of the MacKay children have been involved with local refugee resettlement efforts, and continue to volunteer their time to the Rideau Bridge to Canada group (formerly Merrickville Bridge to Canada).
This week, meet Fae, the oldest sibling of the MacKay family!
Fae MacKay, 16 years old, was born in Virginia in the United States, but has always called Merrickville her home. Although Fae grew up in a small town, from a young age she has been exposed to diverse cultures. The MacKay family welcomes travelers and exchange students in their home through an organization called, WWOOF Canada. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, WWOOF is an acronym for “worldwide workers on organic farms” or “willing workers on organic farms”. The worldwide movement links visitors with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and education experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange. The MacKay family has a hobby farm on their property where the 'wwoofers' work, they also help out with the kids. “I think it’s great because it introduces us to new cultures and lifestyles,” says Fae.
Fae, going into grade 11 at North Grenville District High School, is among the many youth volunteers who have dedicated their time to help fundraise money to bring a Syrian refugee family to Merrickville. She first got involved with Rideau Bridge to Canada through her mother, Diana MacKay, who is actively involved in the group. Soon after she began volunteering, Fae was asked to be the Chair of the youth committee – her role will be to help the Syrian children integrate into their new school and community. When asked what advice she would give to someone moving to Merrickville from another country, Fae responded simply; “Merrickville is a small town and everyone knows each other in the community. Don’t be shy. People are open.” After a wait of about 17 months, the fundraising and hard work of the Rideau Bridge to Canada group has paid off – the group welcomed a Syrian family to their town on June 22nd.
Fae also talked about her experience participating in a student exchange in France last year, which she says, “gave me a better global perspective”, and wishes that other people knew that small towns are open to welcoming newcomers. “Merrickville is not that diverse yet, but people here are ready to welcome newcomers,” she says. Her exchange abroad also sparked her desire to explore the world, “just because I am from a small town people expect I’ll stay here… that’s not the case for me”.