Multicultural association celebrates milestone
Successful fundraising helps hire two permanent employees to assist local newcomers
For more than a year and a half, volunteers with the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron have been collecting beer cans and wine bottles from local restaurants to raise enough money to hire two permanent employees.
Recently, the association reached its goal of $50,000, which was matched by board members, to hire a co-ordinator and a settlement consultant to help newcomers navigate Canada’s immigration system and connect them with the resources needed to start a new life in Perth and Huron counties.
“Today, we make $50,000. I want to say thank you to the community for helping us,” said association founder Geza Wordofa. “We sold the bottles for 25 cents, the cans for 10 cents every week. That’s how we reached our goal.”
Before now, there had been no paid employees working at the multicultural association. Now, thanks to the empties donated by eight local restaurants, the association has hired Asil Hamid to serve as a part-time settlement consultant and Meaghen Brideau as co-ordinator. Both women have been volunteering with the association for more than a year and said they were eager to contribute on a more permanent basis.
Hamid, an Iraqi native who speaks both English and Arabic, has had several years experience helping her neighbours at her Toronto apartment building – many of whom are Syrian refugees – fill out immigration paperwork, access settlement services, and understand their new lives in Canada.
“There are many refugees ... who are looking for a safe place. …They are suffering and (the multicultural association) wants to help them,” Hamid said. “So they approached me and asked me about this position. Multicultural is the organization that I trust to bring refugees.”
Though she had worked full time as a financial consultant at a firm with offices in Toronto and Stratford, Hamid had volunteered to translate for – and assist – Arabic-speaking newcomers during the association’s Saturday settlement clinics. Now that she is coming on full time, her role has been expanded to include reviewing immigration application to make sure everything is in order before they are submitted.
Though Hamid is currently working as a consultant, she is training to become a full settlement officer in the near future.
Brideau, a social work graduate from the University of Waterloo, has been brought on to assist Wordofa with his ever-expanding workload.
“I do a little bit of everything. I help with events – I will help plan those – I do intake work if we have new clients coming into the office, I may help them with applications for visas. If they are in need of services – whether it’s housing, jobs – I will help them to find those resources for them and connect them with them,” she said.
Brideau also travels with Wordofa across both counties and beyond to meet with newcomer families to determine how the multicultural association can serve them best.
Having moved to Stratford three years ago while finishing her degree in Waterloo, Brideau said she was surprised to see that the city’s newcomer population was being underutilized, under-served, and poorly represented.
“It was really important for me to work here because this is something that I missed, and I thought it was lacking when I got here. But I see now that there is a diversity in Stratford, it’s just harder to see, and I want to bring it out. Newcomers are always needed. They help the community grow and flourish, and they need to be seen and supported more in Stratford,” Brideau said.
Having only just started in their new roles, both Hamid and Brideau are already working to help Syrian newcomers Ikhlas Salloum and her husband Mohammed Al Doghaim secure funding to launch a Syrian bakery in Stratford.
“If she will get this money that will be a great opportunity for her to work very hard to prove herself here in her new country,” Hamid translated for Salloum.
“She said that she wants to be giving a good picture for Syrian families when they come here – be a great example for them – even for Canadians. … She said we are here to build the economy and show them that we are working very hard.” firstname.lastname@example.org
After raising $50,000 over the last year and a half by collecting and selling beer cans and wine and liquor bottles from local restaurants, the Multicultural Association of Perth Huron announced Wednesday that it has used the funds raised to hire two permanent employees. Pictured from left are board member Robert Martin, co-ordinator Meaghen Brideau, founder Geza Wordofa, settlement consultant Asil Hamid, and Syrian newcomers Ikhlas Salloum and Mohamed Al Doghaim.