During this time of year, many people of different faiths and walks of life are celebrating holidays in varying ways. But this year, religions that may not seem to have much in common when it comes to celebrating the season are coming together to help the less fortunate.
The not-for-profit organization Homeless Partners has been giving gifts to the homeless in Victoria for four years now.
New this year, is the involvement of the Catholic community and the B.C. Muslim Association.
Volunteers from both religions interviewed local homeless people and shared their wish lists online so people in the community could read them and send personalized gifts directly to the homeless recipients through shelters such as Cool Aid’s Rock Bay Landing emergency shelter.
“When you give a personalized gift to a homeless person, they feel encouraged,” said Daniel Keeran, co-founder of Homeless Partners.
Although Christmas is not celebrated by Muslims, Mustafa Abousaleh, a volunteer with the B.C. Muslim Association, said it is still a good opportunity to help others.
“When we say we’re men and women of God . . . and that we are doing good for the creation of God, then why would we try to put barriers between us?,” said Abousaleh, adding he sees it more as humans coming together for the common good, rather than Christians and Muslims coming together. “Sometimes just a little bit of a human touch might help.”
When Dean Henderson, Catholic chaplain at the University of Victoria and Camosun College heard about the project, he was thrilled to get involved.
“I thought [it was] a great idea, in terms of portraying the peaceful way that we can share the kindness of the Christmas season or any season with the homeless people,” said Henderson. “This is a beautiful way of personally touching people and saying [we] actually care.”
Daniel and Jennie Keeran, the co-founders of Homeless Partners, decided to involve the different faith communities to show how well they could work together.
“It’s establishing an environment that’s conducive to peace, because you can’t have peace until you talk to each other first,” said Jennie.
The Homeless Partners Christmas Wish List program is in nine cities across Canada. So far over 100 gifts have been pledged in Victoria out of the 300 requested gifts. Across Canada, over 1,000 gifts have been pledged to people in need.
Fiona Langlois was one person to receive a gift at Rock Bay Landing on Tuesday.
“It’s overwhelming; I feel so blessed and thankful,” said Langlois, as she opened her gift. “People can change, and the world can change. You have to believe.”
For more information, and to pledge a gift, go online to homelesspartners.com.