REGINA — Agnes Parisloff has been working with and for refugees for about 20 years, and those years of dedication to others were recognized by the government of Saskatchewan presenting her with the Saskatchewan Volunteer Medal in an April 6 ceremony at Government House.
“Surprised, honoured and humbled,” said Parisloff in an interview with the PM after the ceremony. She was one of 10 people awarded the provincial honour. Part of the citation for her medal reads: “The term social justice warrior has become almost pejorative on the Internet, but for Agnes it could not be a more apt and warm description. She has worked with the Regina and Area Refugee Support Group since its inception in 2002 and the Regina Open Door society since the 1990s and continues to assist newcomers in the present time.”
“The way to change the world is to give everybody a grandmother like Agnes Parisloff,” said Archdiocesan Social Justice co-ordinator Bert Pitzel. “She’s about doing things, she’s about serving. She’s very much run by the needs of the moment and driven by her compassion.”
Parisloff became involved with refugees, she says, about 20 years ago, when Jim Mercer a Regina prosthetist who worked at the Wascana Rehabilitation Hospital, went to Afghanistan to provide his skills for the benefit of soldiers who had lost limbs.
“When he came back I became involved with a group that was helping set up a house for a family that he was instrumental in getting to Canada and then I got the bug, I guess,” said Parisloff. “It was just incredible and then Marianne Skoropad (who received a Citation for Citizenship from the Canadian government in 2005 for her work with refugees that began with the Vietnamese boat people) approached us at Holy Child to help a young man sponsor his mother and father and five sisters from Afghanistan.” Her interest and work with refugees just continued. It was a natural fit with her longtime involvement in social justice issues.
The Saskatchewan bishops about six years ago decided they wanted to do something for the Iraqi Christians who were being persecuted. “A group of us got together with the late archbishop and we got to helping one family. We went to the different churches and they donated money. The first family came about four years ago and the last family arrived last October.”
In between all of that Parisloff has been involved in sponsorship of families and individuals from Myanmar, Eritrea, Somalia, Congo and other areas. “We’ve set up many houses by collecting furniture and storing it in my garage,” she said, laughing. “It’s been lots of fun.”