What do you get when you mix refugees and fine vegetarian fare? Carty House’s 2nd annual Green Door Restaurant fundraiser! The recent photograph of a drowned Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach has galvanized public interest in refugee issues. In the aftermath, my Facebook news feed was filled with calls to action and pleas from people who are not typical activists, seeking comrades in arms to privately sponsor a family fleeing war or persecution.
The truth is, not everybody can afford or is prepared to take on the responsibility of privately sponsoring refugees. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to help right here in Ottawa. Full disclosure: I recently joined the board of directors of Carty House, a Sandy Hill-based charity dedicated to providing refugee women with a first home in Canada, assistance navigating the refugee process and other settlement services. A key United Way funding grant came to an end over the summer, which means donations are needed now more than ever to maintain services.
To this end, Carty House is calling on Ottawa foodies to join its residents on September 21st for a fundraising dinner at the Green Door Restaurant which will open its doors for a rare Monday dinner service.For $40, which includes a $25 tax receipt, guests will enjoy an all-you-could-eat vegetarian buffet dinner. The restaurant usually has a pay-by-weight system, which means you can finally go for the cumbersome cauliflower.
There will also be live music with country party band Grateful We’re Not Dead, a silent auction featuring African art, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra tickets, locally crafted jewelry, a handmade quilt, Reiki distance healing sessions and more.
Think of it as killing two birds with one stone. Not only will you be helping Carty House, you’ll also be supporting the beloved, longtime vegetarian stalwart which has seen a bit of a decline in business due to heavy construction in the Old Ottawa East neighbourhood.
I recently spoke with Carty House program coordinator Jackie Romero and the Green Door’s Poppy Weaver to find out more about the charity and the restaurant.
Here’s a lightly edited transcript of what they had to say:
Apartment613: How many refugees live at Carty House, where do they come from and why did they flee?
Jackie: We are currently housing nine women. We welcome women from a variety of countries, most recently, however, they’ve come from Nigeria, DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Burundi, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda, Iraq and Pakistan. From what we have been privy to, many have fled due to civil upheaval, gender based violence/abuse, domestic abuse, patriarchal societies, tribes, (and) persecution to name a few.
Apartment613: Would Carty House take on Syrian refugees given the current situation in that country?
Jackie: The exodus from Syria has not reached Canada in great numbers. I don’t see why Carty House would not take on Syrian refugees.
Apartment613: Why just women? Do residents typically have spouses and dependents back home? Are they safe?
Jackie: Women are a vulnerable group in and of themselves and come with a particular set of issues and concerns. The founder of Carty House felt that women were the ones in need and thus began her mission to serve them. Some of our residents have families. Some with kids and sometimes their spouse is in hiding or left behind. There have been a few women in the past that have shared their concern for the welfare of their families. One family was on the run and were internally displaced completely. Another resident commented that her spouse was abusive but the children were still with him. You need money to travel, thus many leave alone and pave the way for their family reunification once settled. If they left together they might rise suspicion from their persecutors.
Apartment 613: Why has the Green Door Restaurant decided to team up with Carty House for a second straight year to put on this event?
Poppy: Our connection with Carty House began with a personal connection through a neighbour. We like the people and their project.
Apartment 613: Can you give us a taste for what goodies will be on the menu Monday?
Poppy: At this time of year there is a great abundance of local produce and Monday evening’s menu will be based on the produce of several of our local Ottawa area growers with whom we have had a relationship for many years. The menu will include Sicilian eggplant with a quinoa-basil-garlic topping, tomatoes stuffed with rice and herbs (and) other dishes incorporating squash and leeks. There will be a good selection from the hot buffet, the salad bar and the dessert section. We are currently working on creating a new recipe for the event, a vegan dessert based on pumpkin and cashew cream.
Apartment 613: In terms of the Ottawa food scene, would you agree that what you’ve been doing since 1988 — “vegetarian, local, organic” — is trendier now more than ever? What do you make of this trend? Is it good for business or does it just mean more competition?
Poppy: Vegetarian, local, organic is definitely more mainstream now than in 1988. We have seen this change occur gradually over the years, and I expect such growth to continue. We work hard to do a good job at what we do. Perhaps it is as a result of that that we are not concerned with competition.