HURON-PERTH – The Multicultural Association of Perth Huron (MAPH) recognizes the importance of following Public Health recommendations and the need for the public to get vaccinated, so they are offering free rides to vaccination clinics.
“Anyone is very welcome,” said Gezahgn Wordofa, MAPH founder. “Whether you are a newcomer, living here for a long time, or homeless – whether you don’t have enough money we are here for you.”
To arrange a free ride to a vaccination appointment call the MAPH helpline at 1-888-910-1583.
The pandemic has been tough for everyone but there have been some unique hardships for some new Canadians to deal with.
“Simply because of the language barrier they might not know how to register for a vaccine,” said Christian Shingiro, MAPH area manager. “They might see the vaccine as important but not even know how to do it… they might have been eligible for the vaccine for the last month. That’s why we need to provide these support services.”
MAPH Board Director Yosief Abraham said many of the people they help have reservations about getting vaccinated because they hear false information about the vaccines.
To provide vaccination education, Wordofa said there is a need for money, materials and translators.
“Where is the government?” he asked. “Where is economic development? Where is the money for newcomer services?”
He said most of the funding for the work MAPH is doing to educate newcomers about COVID-19 is being provided by private donations and volunteer workers.
“You are going to have to be speaking their language and they are going to have to identify with the speaker so that is another reason to bring the community together – to provide good information,” said Shingiro.
He said he attended an online talk addressing vaccine paranoia hosted by the Federation of Black Canadians.
“It was great to hear the information from these doctors about why the vaccine needs to be taken for the community for us to get out of this mess, why it’s safe and why they were able to roll it out in a year and a half,” said Shingiro.
He said it is much more reassuring when you can receive information from people in your community.
“It can give people peace of mind especially if they were originally isolated before and have a hard time figuring their way around in Canada,” said Shingiro.
Wordofa said the MAPH is setting up talks with medical professionals from various backgrounds who can speak about COVID-19 and vaccinations in many languages.
“It is a time to stand up and grow together,” he said.
Shingiro emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated now that there are COVID variants of concern spreading which more people seem susceptible to.
“It’s going to affect the whole community if we let it spread without people getting some sort of immunity and defence for it,” he said.
Aside from driving people to COVID-19 testing and vaccination centres, the MAPH continues to be busy handing out masks and personal protective equipment, making sure people have access to essentials such as food and toiletries and helping people find access to government services.
“We want to be helpful to all immigrants because we understand the country is built on immigration so we want to help people to assimilate, to get services, understand how to find jobs and make sure they know what their rights are when they are here,” said Shingiro.
Wordofa said the goal of the MAPH is to help people comfortably and safely integrate into rural communities. Shingiro pointed out that during the COVID-19 pandemic people from racialized communities may feel isolated and distanced from the sense of community people born and raised in Canada are accustomed to.
“If they don’t have a sense of community they don’t have a sense of recognition of their own distinct culture that can affect mental health,” he said. “That can make them feel alone. Loneliness leads to depression… it leads to illnesses. It’s a chain reaction.”
The MAPH goal is to help bring people together so there will be a sense of belonging and a sense of understanding of people’s roots and lineage.
Wordofa said that if municipal councils offer support to multicultural festivals and events it will be very important.
“We have to be together,” he said.
Ultimately, Wordofa said the MAPH would like to see more diversity in the elected officials on council but for now, they are encouraged to see work has begun in both Perth and Huron counties to become more inclusive and anti-racist.
“We are ready for that,” he said. “We are very strong now. We are enjoying our time. Everybody is now excited for the elections in 2022.”
“Because we are part of this community we have to make the conditions as good as we can make them,” said Shingiro. “If we’re seeing adverse conditions regardless of who it is happening to we have to do something, we have to make an impact… It’s about inclusion and inclusion means everyone.”
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner