The Story

The New Story

In September 2016, the Poplar Project welcomed Martharlen to Ottawa. She travelled to Canada from the Ivory Coast where she had lived as a refugee from her native Liberia for 20 years.

 Since arriving in Ottawa, Marthalen has been unstoppable in her pursuits– attending workshops, computer courses, and school to soak up as much learning as possible. She’s also joined a choir and has started working part-time, finding her own community of support beyond our small sponsorship group. She greets every challenge and every opportunity with a bright, courageous smile that is truly infectious to be around.

Martharlen’s decision to leave the Ivory Coast was not an easy one: her two young boys had gone missing in 2011 during times of war and she had not been able to locate them prior to her departure. She hoped and prayed that her boys would one day resurface.

That day came a few months ago. Much to everyone’s joy, the boys have been located (!) in a neighbouring region. The boys were brought home to live with Martharlen’s mother, who never left their village in case the boys returned. Now it’s time to reunite the family in Canada.

The Poplar Project has submitted the paperwork for the family’s reunification and is hopeful that the boys will arrive in the upcoming months. We are also working to ensure they can have enough support to make it through the often challenging first year of resettlement.

The Poplar Project has committed to raising $23,000 to meet the family’s living expenses for a year.

We are reaching out to our friends, colleagues, and family to help raise this amount.

Can you help us reach that goal? If so, here’s how:

Option 1: Donate by cheque

Write a cheque to “Jewish Family Services of Ottawa” and add in the memo “The Poplar Project.” I can accept the cheque from you and forward it on your behalf, or you can send it directly to this address: Jewish Family Services, Attn Andrea Gardner, 2255 Carling Ave suite 300, Ottawa, ON K2B 7Z5.

Option 2: Donate online through CanadaHelps

Visit this website Select “Assist Refugees” as the specific fund from the drop-down menu, and write“The Poplar Project” in the comments field.

Whichever way you give, please also fill in this simple form so that we are aware of your support, can thank you for it, and can learn of other ways you may wish to be involved. This is the best way for us to assess how our fundraising is going.

Martharlen’s story was recently captured by Blair Crawford of the Ottawa Citizen. Read it here.

Thank you so much for your support! We look forward to updating you with news about this project!


Erin, Hilary, James, Joanne, Kathryn, Katherine, Kelly, Omar, Rachel, Sara, Susan, and Tamara

Martharlen by Wayne Cuddington

The Old Story

It is a beautiful thing when a global community comes together.

The Syrian refugee crisis is the largest displacement of people since WWII. While that crisis captures world attention, people and families from dozens of other countries also seek refuge. This is a moment in which communities from all over the world can step up and take care of each other.

Under the Canadian immigration system, community groups can sponsor a refugee. This is what the Poplar Project is. We are a small intergenerational group of women in Ottawa who have made a commitment to sponsor a woman refugee to start over in Canada.

The Poplar Project group originally came together to support a single woman from Syria. After weeks of watching the Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) refugee lists from the government, there were very few single women from Syria but we saw file after file for women from other countries – Palestine, Eritrea, Burma, DRC, Liberia. Recently we decided to open ourselves to the possibility of sponsoring a woman fleeing a country other than Syria. Before we knew it – we had a match with a woman fleeing West Africa.


To welcome this refugee, we need to raise $15,000 to provide for her material needs for her first year in Canada until she is established enough to live independently at the end of this first year.

Beyond her financial needs, the group is responsible for her settlement. This means supporting her in all areas of her life: cultural integration, language learning, employment, housing, emotional well-being, healthcare, and transportation.

We will want to familiarize her with the city, support her empowerment and independence, and everything else you can imagine that you would do when helping a newcomer start a new chapter of her life. As a group, we are excited to be able to offer this support to a refugee, as we know there are so many people in the world who would do the same for us if the tables were turned.

Click here to learn how you can contribute to supporting this woman whom we will soon meet.

Thank you for being a part of strengthening our global community in which we take responsibility for each other’s well-being.

Rachel, Kathryn, Joanne, Tamara, Erin & Kelly


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