BUC - Knox Refugee Partnership

A partnership of Bracebridge United Church and Knox Presbyterian Church
to support a Syrian Refugee Family to start a new life in our community.

Bracebridge United Church
46 Dominion Street,
Bracebridge, ON, P1L 2A5
Website: bracebridgeunitedchurch.ca

Knox Presbyterian Church
120 Taylor Road,
Bracebridge, ON, P1L 1J2
Website: knoxbracebridge.ca

Join hands with us - be a part of the story

Help Bring our family to Bracebridge



Our Family

Fundraising & Unique Artistic Birdhouses


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Some of our successful fundraising projects . . .

  • Sales of chocolate bars and booksBars & Book
  • Money for metal raised over $5000 towards the projectScrap metal
  • Offering and alternate Christmas GiftGift Card
  • Plus many individual gifts . . .


By Kathy Wood

“There is nothing more important than a safe and secure home.”

In March 2017 a small group of people from Bracebridge United Church waited anxiously in the arrivals area of Pearson International Airport in Toronto with Canadian flags and flowers as the realization of many dreams were about to unfold when Hassan, Berivan and Pella Khaled walked through the doors to meet their new family in Canada and to be taken to a new safe and secure home in Bracebridge. The Khaleds were refugees from war-torn Syria and had been sponsored by Bracebridge United Church. Five years later, Rev. Nancy Knox who initiated the sponsorship and this group plus several more friends and family gathered at Bracebridge United Church to celebrate when the Khaleds received their Canadian citizenship. A good news story during the depths of COVID. In 2021, Nancy, now the Khaled’s adopted mother and grandmother, was approached by Berivan asking if the church would consider sponsoring her aunt’s family of six, the Janbalis, to relocate to Bracebridge. Nancy approached Rev. Heather Malnik at Knox Presbyterian Church to see if they would consider a partnership. After meeting the Khaleds via Zoom and hearing their story, the Knox congregation said yes and the process began. And here is where my story begins.

In the summer of 2021 while at our cottage in Haliburton, my husband Peter and I got an email from Nancy asking if we would consider joining the already formed joint committee as its Fundraising Chairs due to our successful fundraising with our family charity The Ronnie Fund, Working for Quality Village Life in Kenya. We said yes and began to formulate fundraising ideas that might be implemented during the dark days of COVID when people could not gather. We had wanted something that would broaden the scope of the two churches and involve more members of our Bracebridge community. Having an interest in art, we came up with an idea, so I took it to my neighbour renowned artist Lynda Lynn for her input on the viability of the idea and its implementation. During our conversation, Lynda reworked the idea and we settled on the Artistic Birdhouse Fundraiser, something Lynda felt had not been done in our area before.

Peter mobilized woodworkers in both churches and in the community who created wooden birdhouses. Each woodworker was free to choose and create their own designs. Peter also approached Marty Scarlett, the Head of the Woodshop program at St. Domincs Secondary School to see if his students might be interested in making a few birdhouses. This was just the type of project Marty was looking for as he wanted the students to work outside the box and to utilize their own creativity in a woodworking process. It was a win-win project as the kids got experience using their own ingenuity and we benefitted from a large number of birdhouses. When Peter was called to pick up the birdhouses he was amazed to received 28 birdhouses, everything from a conventional wooden birdhouse to those made from rubber boots and coffee cans, one decorated with books and others with metal siding and even a license plate roof. Soon other birdhouses began to appear on our porch. Richard ? of Artifex took some of the houses and gave them shiny copper roofs.

We then took the birdhouses over to Lynda Lynn who has worked tirelessly to mobilze the artistic community. Lynda distributed the birdhouses to local artists who painted and decorated them. Some even had long journeys south and back as artists took them away on their winter vacations to paint them. Again, each artist was free to be inspired by the birdhouse in their decoration. Several artists upon seeing a birdhouse had an immediate vision for that project. We attached a card to each birdhouse that was signed by the Woodworker and the Artist and we asked each artist to name their birdhouse. Lynda said the artists had fun decorating the birdhouses as it was a different kind of project from their normal art practice.

This project has had greater benefits than we originally anticipated as wonderful stories emerged. Two of our first birdhouses came as a collaboration of two of our woodworkers Eshak Tatrsaou and Walter Ried. Eshak is 12 years old and a survivor of the Syrian war along with his mother Muna and two brothers. Eshak’s family has successfully become Canadian citizens after residing in Bracebridge over the past 5 years. He is participating in the BUC/Knox Refugee Partnership initiative to raise funds for the Churches’ second sponsored family from the Middle East. Eshak hopes that the birdhouse initiative in some small way eases the lives of the next family coming the Bracebridge. Walter is one of many from another community group who sponsored Eshak’s family and he tries to fill some gaps left by the passing of Eshak’s dad just before his family immigrated to Canada. Artist Wendie Donabie received one of the two birdhouses Walter and Eshak built and she named her birdhouse “Trees for Eshak.”.

Another story came from Lynda about one of the contributing artists. This artist has had several tough years surviving cancer, the death of her mother and cousin and then as we all have dealing with the isolation of COVID. Participating in the Artistic Birdhouse Project gave her a renewed creative spark and she eagerly looked forward to each new day when she could work on one of the birdhouses. And she has been prolific in decorating the birdhouses. One never knows when one starts a project to achieve a goal how it might impact others along the way who are participants.

It has been a great community project by providing not only a home for our feathered friends in Muskoka but also in generating funds to bring over the Janbali family fleeing their war-torn homeland of Syria to a new home here in Bracebridge. The birdhouses can be viewed and purchased at Bracebridge United Church and Knox Presbyterian Church. They will be on sale at the Summer Marketplace at Bracebridge United Church on June 11 and also at select Farmers’ Markets this summer (dates and places to be confirmed). You can also see the birdhouses on Instagram and on our website at www.buc-knoxrefugee.ca

We express our deepest gratitude to all those who constructed birdhouses and to all the artists who joined hands with us to decorate and paint the birdhouses. To date we have raised $1,800 from the Artistic Birdhouse Project and $60,000 of our $80,000 goal. Zor spas (thank you in Kurdish) to all our donors in the community and beyond who have helped to make the Janbali family’s dream a reality through sharing your financial gifts, time and talents. It is a testament that by working together we can each help another in the quest for a peaceful and safe world.


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