Multicultural association has served over 9,000 people throughout pandemic

Group launches initiative to clean up discarded masks

PALMERSTON – Throughout the pandemic, the Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron has helped transport 9,056 people to vaccine appointments and COVID-19 tests in Huron, Perth, Wellington, Oxford, Middlesex, Bruce, Grey counties.

The organization helps immigrants and other newcomers adjust to Canada. Over the past year, it pivoted its focus to combatting COVID-19.

Founder and president Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa said although the organization specifically focuses on helping underprivileged people and those who are new to Canada, its services are available to everyone.

The multicultural association has been operating three colourful vans throughout the region to provide free transportation for area residents looking for a COVID test or a vaccine. Anyone can call 1-888-910-1583 to be picked up from their exact location.

“Whether they are newcomers, older, homeless, or in need, we do this for them,” Wordofa said in a July 22 interview.

“We are still giving people rides, and we are very happy to do it.”

Along with the success of its vaccination and testing transportation program, the organization has begun to focus on a new initiative: cleaning up discarded masks and other garbage from across the region.

Wordofa said it started with volunteers working together to pick up discarded masks at parks in the area. However, members soon noticed the problem was also apparent in parking lots and along roads.

On July 22, Wordofa, along with Yosief Abraha and Hira Dhariwal, both volunteers with the multicultural association, travelled to CNR Park in Palmerston to pick up discarded masks and other garbage off the ground.

Wordofa said it is important for communities to be clean and free of litter as people begin leaving their homes more often as the pandemic comes to a close.

“When I see masks on the ground, and I see dogs sniffing them, they may be carrying the disease to their family. That could increase the spread (of COVID-19),” he said.

“We’ve also seen masks in the rivers. It is going to damage the animals and the plants.”

Wordofa said the multicultural association has expanded to 53 volunteers and is growing every day. Many volunteers are immigrants to Canada, and some are from as far away as Syria.

The mask cleanup effort is something Wordofa and the organization’s volunteers take immense pride in. According to Wordofa, volunteers from the multicultural association have already picked up over 12,000 masks from the ground.

“We have been doing this every day for weeks. Everybody is excited, and we are working hard,” he said.

“We are living in a beautiful country, and we have to be blessed and appreciate the community every single day. We have to make a difference.”

Wordofa said he believes that the mask cleanup initiative serves as an exclamation point on the organization’s efforts throughout the pandemic.

He also expressed gratitude toward the organization’s 53 volunteers.

“Whether you are an engineer, or a doctor, who cares. Everybody here is equal,” he explained.

“Now, by volunteering, you show who you are. We are so blessed to be able to drive people to appointments and clean up around the community.”

Wordofa, who is originally from Ethiopia, has lived and worked in all corners of the world, including Afghanistan and Russia. He said he would like to see people take better care of the community they live in.

“We are so blessed. Our life is good and very safe. Sometimes we take for granted the opportunities we have here.”