Immigrant Centre/Welcome Place and Holy Names House of Peace

April 8, 2019

Article provided by Joanne McKay, as part of the Leadership Winnipeg program.

Having been born and raised here, I have often wondered what would motivate someone to move to Winnipeg. I’m not dissing Winnipeg, I just wonder, with all of the towns and cities in the world, why Winnipeg?

The day started at the Immigrant Centre with a very enthusiastic Executive Director (Jorge Fernandez). He described his role and what the Immigrant Centre offers newcomers and I was in awe of his passion.  He himself came to Winnipeg as a newcomer, knowing exactly where he was going and why. It became evident that only someone with his experience as a newcomer could do the work he does. The answers to “why Winnipeg” started to become evident.

We walked to Welcome Place where I couldn’t get enough of the positive vibe of the staff and volunteers. There are 44 staff who speak 100 different languages, so no matter where you are from, there will be someone you can talk to. The difference between those who choose to come to Winnipeg (immigrants) and those who “end up” in Winnipeg (refugees) was clearly explained by Felicien Rubayita, Manager of Settlement Services. Yahya Samatar shared his fascinating journey to Winnipeg and I have since asked him to share his story with those I work with.

Welcome Place is where newcomers are transported to when they land in Winnipeg. Here they are offered food, clothing and shelter while they assimilate. The suites are set up with the basics (bed sheets, towels, pots and pans), that newcomers use during their stay and take with them when they go. For some, these basic items are their only possessions. The people who spoke and gave us a tour were clearly proud of the work they do. This second stop further enhanced my understanding of “why Winnipeg.”

It was the story told by Shewit, a newcomer to Winnipeg, that completed the answer to my “why Winnipeg” question. Shewit lives at the Holy Names House of Peace, our last stop of the day.  Supported by Sister Lesley Sacouman, her words were clear and her emotion raw. We were offered baked goods made by the women living there. The warm and supportive atmosphere in the home was evident and it was clear that a lot of healing had taken place.

Snow, mosquitos, potholes, the things we often complain about are trivial compared to the conditions that some in the world are forced to endure. If you ever wonder why you live here, I encourage you to visit the Immigrant Centre, Welcome Place and/or the Holy Names House of Peace; you will find the answer.