HURON-PERTH – Through the Red Cross, the federal government has given the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron $80,000 through the Emergency Community Support Fund, allowing it to enhance the support it is giving to new Canadians and migrant workers in the region.
“We have a plan to now serve over 10,000 people,” said Gezahgn Wordofa, founder of the association.
With the new masks and personal protective equipment provided by the Red Cross, volunteers can make sure they are protected when they go door-to-door making deliveries for the food-sharing program.
High-quality masks are now being provided to families.
“We now have different sizes for the kids,” said Rose Machar, a volunteer with the multicultural association.
“You have to have mask every time (you shop),” said Wordofa. “Some families can’t afford to have masks… we can also take the temperature of our newcomers before they go shopping.”
Guidance has also been given to help do online COVID-19 evaluations.
A helpline (1-888-910-1583) has been set up allowing people to express their needs more easily. All volunteers have had the training to discuss mental health needs and to direct callers towards other agencies if they are in severe or urgent need.
“We also encourage them to reach out to 911 if it’s an emergency we can’t deal with at that moment,” said Machar.
People can find help if they are dealing with emotional issues caused by the isolation and the trauma of being alone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wordofa said women in new Canadian families have been particularly isolated.
“Whatever the need may be we can reach out and refer them to the other places they can get the assistance they need,” said Machar. “The hotline is open until midnight. If people call after midnight people can leave a message and we get back to them as soon as we can.”
For Wordofa, receiving this money from the government has been like a dream come true. Before that, they raised money collecting recyclables and they ran on such a tight budget they could not offer volunteers gas mileage. Now that they have money to help out their volunteers, the number of people who can help has more than doubled to 23, and they can now assist people in 21 languages.
“We were going door-to-door and (volunteers) had a car but they didn’t always have gas,” he said. “Now we have access through this program. We are so blessed to get this, how the government is looking after us.”
A helpful new piece of technology they acquired is a printer that they bring with them in the van.
“We can print immigration papers,” he said. “We can do that right in a parking lot. I’ve never seen that in my life.”
“It’s easier to make sure that people can get materials,” said Machar. “You need to remember libraries were closed and areas people would normally go to print their stuff – it was just not there. So with that printer, it makes it easier. We can be anywhere and just print.”
Wordofa is very happy and thankful to display the Red Cross logo and the logo of the Canadian government on the new minivan with a fresh new look for the association.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner