BU student delivering talk on Hutterite colony’s sponsorship of Syrian refugee family

Brandon University (BU) student Elaine Hofer will present a public talk and slide show on Thursday, March 9 on her Green Acres Hutterite Colony’s sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family. The talk, which is part of the Creative Writing Literary Exchange, is entitled “Walking Home: Cross-Cultural Exchange in Rural Manitoba.”

Hofer has just self-published a memoir on the life-changing experience that the colony underwent when they sponsored Najwa and Reyad Al Hamoud and their two children during Canada’s 2016 campaign to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees. By 2021 more than 73,000 Syrians had been resettled in Canada as refugees, according to Natalie Kalata of the CBC.

As part of her talk, Hofer will present a short documentary produced by the United Nations Refugee Agency about the Green Acres colony’s support for the Al Hamoud family.

She will supplement her presentation with a slide show that depicts the rich cultural exchange that took place between members of the Hutterite Christian community and members of the Muslim Al Hamoud family.

“We gained so much more than a family we sponsored,” Hofer says.

“Our worldview was widened to meaningful new friendships and cultures, a larger definition of family, and some of the most beautiful, moving encounters we’ve ever experienced.”

Before being forced to flee Syria, Najwa was an elementary school teacher in Hama, Syria, and her husband Reyad worked in construction, according to Leyland Cecco and Annie Sekkab in an article for the UN Refugee Agency.

It was only ten days after the Al Hamouds reached Lebanon that they learned that the home Reyad had built for them in Hama had been demolished in a bomb attack.

They spent the next three years in exile, living in a shack, almost escaping by boat across the Mediterranean, before learning they had been accepted by Canada, say Cecco and Sekkab.

The Al Hamouds lived in Wawanesa before later moving to Brandon. They have since found a home and community in Edmonton.

Hofer is a student in the Education Integrated Program at BU and taking Arts courses at present. In 2019 she was the subject of a CBC podcast about her passion for long distance running. The podcast was featured as part of The Doc Project with Acey Rowe and was re-broadcast in 2022 after being selected as one of the show’s top 10 favourites. Hofer has run in twelve half-marathons and three 25-kilometre runs.

She has been published in the national magazine Broadview, and is currently in discussion with a publisher about the publication of her memoir.

Her talk on Thursday will be held in Room 206 of Clark Hall, from noon to 12:30 pm. The event is free and open to all. There will be a short question-and-answer period after her talk.

The Creative Writing Literary Exchange is a creative arts project supported by the Department of English, Drama, & Creative Writing and the Dean of Arts Office at BU.

For more information, contact Dale Lakevold at Lakevold@BrandonU.ca or 204-727-7413.


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