Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron prepares to welcome Ukrainian refugees

PERTH-HURON – The Multicultural Association of Perth Huron (MAPH) announced on March 2 that it has begun preparing to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war with Russia.

“We are very, very sad for the Ukrainian country because of what has happened,” read MAPH Founder and Executive Director Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa from a prepared message. “The MAPH has been on the ground working with newcomers in the community for ten years now. We were there with open arms to Syrian, Afghan and other refugees needing to escape war in their homes. Today we are opening our arms to Ukrainians who are looking for shelter as their country is under attack.”

Work is already underway with businesses and community organizations to help refugees find work and safe accommodations.

We were there with open arms to Syrian, Afghan and other refugees needing to escape war in their homes. Today we are opening our arms to Ukrainians who are looking for shelter as their country is under attack.

MAPH Founder and Executive Director Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa

“To that end, we are looking for financial donations,” said Wordofa. “We are aiming to purchase the items that are in most need at their arrival.”

As a reminder, he mentioned that MAPH recently received charity status and can issue tax receipts for donations.

“MAPH is always touched by the generosity of our community and hope that this time is no different,” said Wordofa. “Please contact info@MAPH.ca to make a donation or find out more about helping.”

Local factories and farms have already promised jobs and temporary space if needed.

 “As you know, the Canadian government confirmed when refugees arrive, they come with work permits,” said Wordofa.

Canada implemented measures over a month ago to prioritize the processing of citizenship grant applications for adoption and permanent and temporary residence applications for people with a primary residence in Ukraine who want to reunite or travel with family, study, work, or begin a new life in Canada.

“All across Perth-Huron, we will be doing fundraising – selling Krispy Kreme Doughnuts,” he said. “We will put details on our Facebook.”

The MAPH is looking for motels or people with space in their homes to provide temporary accommodations.

“We’re talking with farmers who are ready to give us some temporary space,” said Wordofa. “It is not easy for the community, and it is not easy for the country. It will take a long time and be a long process.”

Progressive Conservative nominee for Perth-Wellington Don Van Galen said he was in attendance for the announcement as a supporter of the work the MAPH does.

“I know you do great work when it comes to inviting people into the community and helping them settle,” he said. “It’s great that you are now a charity and people can be a little bit more giving in helping you, and I think this crisis for Ukraine, unlike some of the past ones, you know, bringing people into this community. I think people are going to be welcoming the people here. Everybody is four squares behind Ukraine in this, so taking in some refugees, whether it is temporary or long-term, they are going to have a great welcome here.”

I think this crisis for Ukraine, unlike some of the past ones, you know, bringing people into this community. I think people are going to be welcoming the people here.

Progressive Conservative nominee for Perth-Wellington Don Van Galen

Van Galen said filling jobs is one of the things that will make welcoming these refugees a benefit to the community.

Progressive Conservative nominee for Perth-Wellington Don Van Galen attended the announcement as a supporter of the work the MAPH does. (Colin Burrowes Photo)

“I mean, people are screaming for people to take on these blue-collar jobs that aren’t being filled, even some white-collar jobs, I can tell you, my business we’re still looking for people,” he said. “So, it’s a good time for you to be stepping up, and I’m excited to hear more about it, some of the logistics of bringing these people out of a war zone. I imagine it’s mostly going to be women and young kids. Obviously, men will be staying to defend their country, but … I think it’s one of the real tangible things that Canadians can do. I mean, we’re not sending over tanks and airplanes and soldiers now – hopefully never, but if we can step forward the way Canadians always have.”

Wordofa spoke about personal experiences in both Ukraine and Russia.

“Ukraine where I went to school, Russia where I went to school, both are the same for me,” he said. “Yesterday I saw our hostel damaged, gone in Ukraine. This is a crisis, and we need to step up now.”

The MAPH is prepared to welcome the refugees because Wordofa and several volunteers speak fluent Russian and Ukrainian.

“We don’t need to bring in or hire somebody from outside who speaks this language and that, for us, is a big plus,” he said. “That is very important.”

MAPH board member Stephen Landers added that Wordofa has a proven track record.

“I think that’s important that they know what you can do,” he said. “They have seen you do it over the years, and they know their money is going to be used well, and you know what you are doing. That’s as important as anything.”

Wordofa was told they could expect about 42 refugees in Huron-Perth. Many of the MAPH volunteers were refugees, and they used that experience to help in their work.

MAPH volunteer Cameron Ohlman said they are trying to do a better job through social media working with organizations which will help them get the stories of the work the MAPH does out.

“The more people we can have following the story, the more people are looking at constructive helping people that are doing something real rather than sending thoughts and prayers or arguing whether left or right is correct,” he said. “But to be able to make the story out there and accessible, inspirational, and inclusive. The more the MAPH does, the bigger the story gets, the more power they are going to have to help, not just in events like this, but the community in general.”

According to Wordofa, financial support or temporary housing are the main goals. If they do need supplies, they will inform the public of specific needs on Facebook once refugees arrive.

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