Mul­ti­cul­tural as­so­ci­a­tion cel­e­brates mile­stone

Suc­cess­ful fundrais­ing helps hire two per­ma­nent em­ploy­ees to as­sist lo­cal new­com­ers

The Beacon Herald - - FRONT PAGE - GALEN SIMMONS STAFF RE­PORTER

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.” gsim­mons@post­media.com

GALEN SIMMONS/THE BEA­CON HERALD

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.

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