Edmonton’s Response in 2016: Hospitality

“Anyone coming down from Ft. Mac need a place to stay?  I have a bed and a pull-out couch at my house.  Call me!”

Facebook posts like this were common in an outpouring of support for wildfire-devastated neighbours from the north.  fleeing-wildfires

The refugee crisis from Syria and other war-torn countries also prompted an opening of borders and an outpouring of care.  What was our first instinct when seeing neighbours in crisis?  Hospitality.  By opening our doors and our communities, we gave rest to people fleeing war and wildfires.  It brought people hope, and a place to heal.

In 2017, what will prompt us to open our doors and our hearts?  Will it be a crisis somewhere across the world?  Or will it be a need close to home that claims our attention?  Be it the struggle of a young family looking for a safe and affordable home, a senior on a long waiting list, or just someone trying to find their way alone in a new place, CRIHI invites you to work with us in making 2017 a year where Edmonton’s compassion and hospitality again shine fiercely for those who need hope and home so desperately.

Beyond the Big White House

Jacob and Aafje Prins helped more than 800 Dutch newcomers settle in Canada and the hospitality of their big white Beverly house with lilac hedges became famous on both sides of the Atlantic.

They were immigrants themselves who brought their eight children to Edmonton in 1927. Forever grateful to their new country, they worked tirelessly to pay it forward.

Delighted at the prosperity of their new life in Canada, Jacob Prins began encouraging other Dutch to emigrate and, when three families arrived from the Netherlands in 1936, he found farms for them to live and work near Lacombe. When more families followed, he found it necessary to scout other locations and this turned out to be the start of a remarkable career.

Prins often contacted the Canadian National Railway for information on available land parcels and, in the winter of 1937, the railway sent him to Holland to promote emigration to Western Canada, reports a history compiled by Tina Van Ameyde. After World War II, the Christian Reformed Church’s Synodical Committee appointed him as fieldman for Central British Columbia.

The railway even provided Prins with a pass to travel freely in the west and, on one of those trips searching for locations suitable for Dutch farmers, he discovered the Bulkley Valley. It was a valley ideally situated on the railway from Edmonton to Prince Rupert, where settlers would be assured of work in the lumber industry during winter months. Many Dutch families subsequently settled in the communities of Smithers, Terrace, Houston and Telkwa, B.C.

img_0516Aafje died in 1949 and her daughter-in-law Ann Prins stepped in to help with the workload, getting up before daybreak to prepare a meal for hungry travellers on their way to British Columbia. Jacob received no remuneration and, for a long while, paid expenses out of his own pocket.

Until 1960, when at the age of 74 he had to resign on doctor’s orders, Prins travelled once a month to B.C. to check up on “his” people. Through his efforts, more than 800 Dutch families were welcomed to Canada and many settled in the Beverly area.

Known as “dad” to the hundreds he helped, Jacob died at home on April 12, 1963, while reading a book in Aafje’s favourite corner. The funeral service filled First Christian Reformed Church to overflowing as people travelled from all over Alberta and B.C. to pay final respects to a man who lived his life in the service of others.

See the full article at: http://citymuseumedmonton.ca/2015/11/17/the-prins/