Toy story – donated toys welcomed with joy by recently-arrived family

One of the donated toys that brought some joy to children of newcomers to Saskatoon. (Photo by Jan Bigland-Pritchard)

By Jan Bigland-Pritchard, Office of Migration

The first toy Mesmer chose was a wooden fire engine.  “Milkias loves anything with wheels!”

My living room looked like Santa’s grotto, the whole sofa covered in toy cars, toy people, stuffed animals, zoo and garage sets, baby toys, pen sets, card games, a working electric train set and a beautiful baby stroller as well.

My friend, a doting grandmother, had a playroom full of new and lightly used toys that her grandson had outgrown.  She washed, sanitized the toys, reunited games with all their pieces, made small repairs to some, bagged them up and then gave me a call.  Did I have any refugee families that could use them?

Mesmer and Hajer, a couple who came to Canada as refugees about 10 years ago, sprang to my mind at once.

They had been waiting for nearly three years for two sponsored families to arrive – Mesmer’s sister Nazret and her small family, and Hajer’s sister Selamawit and her family.  The families had fled their own repressive country and lived precariously in a neighbouring land.  After delays due to COVID, both families arrived within three months of each other.

“I am so relieved!” said Mesmer. “Now my stress is gone!”

Nazret had a baby soon after her arrival, so in their busy joint household I knew there was a new baby and at least two children under six.  I called them, prepared the toys, and, socially distanced, invited Mesmer to take his pick for the kids.  The stroller and many toys flew out of the door.

Now Milkias and his cousins are joyfully using the toys, which otherwise would have sat unloved and gathering dust.  They were provided in love to my friend’s grandchild, and now they are given in love again. Win-win!

Extra toys will find new homes through Diane Anderson’s prison ministry through the diocesan Office of Migration, brightening the day for some inmates’ families.

The electric train set will go to a large and poor newcomer family with older children – but not before my husband and I have laid it out on our living room floor and played with it first.  Who says childhood has to stop?


(Rev. Dr. Jan Bigland-Pritchard is the coordinator of the Office of Migration in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. For more information about the Office and refugee sponsorship visit the website: LINK or e-mail