For 25 years Henny Drope has been involved in welcoming refugees from around the world to Sarnia, Ont., where she lives, and helping them adjust to life in Canada. For her efforts, Drope, who is a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Sarnia, was awarded the Sarnia-Lambton YMCA’s Peace Medallion Nov. 20.
Drope’s volunteerism has been in concert with her service to her church. In 1994, Drope was a new deacon at First CRC, and volunteered to be the congregation’s representative on a refugee sponsorship committee shared by four area Christian Reformed congregations: First, Living Hope, Redeemer, and Wyoming. They were just completing the sponsorship of a family from Cambodia, and soon welcomed a new family from Serbia.
“For the first few years I served as treasurer and secretary before becoming the chairperson for the committee,” said Drope. “I filled out the applications for future families and received a lot of help from World Renew in Burlington.” World Renew is the CRC’s relief and development agency. The committee helped to welcome and settle over a dozen families. This involved finding apartments and suitable furnishings for their arrival, helping with paperwork and registrations, assisting with language learning, and providing for other day-to-day needs such as transportation and family finances.
Nine of the families who immigrated through sponsorship by this group remain in Sarnia. Drope has maintained friendships with them all. Diana, a friend who arrived in 2016, spoke at the award presentation ceremony during YMCA Peace Week. “When we came to Canada...we didn’t know [Henny] but a week later, she came...to take us to Sarnia. She was smiling at us, happy to see us. And I saw the future in her eyes. She loved us right away.”
There have been challenges along the way, admits Drope, “but mostly it has been a joy to be able to help families get a new start in life after enduring hardships and losing all that they had.”