WELLINGTON COUNTY – The Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron is helping transport residents of Wellington County to vaccine appointments and COVID-19 tests.
The association, led by its founder and president Dr. Gezahgn Wordofa, specifically focuses on helping people who are new to Canada, as well as homeless people, although anyone is free to use the service.
“We give newcomers (to Canada) information and rides to get a vaccine,” Wordofa said in an interview with the Advertiser.
“Since many clients live in rural areas, transportation to medical appointments can involve a lot of driving.
“Anybody can call 1-888-910-1583 to get transported for testing or a vaccine. This service is free, and we pick people up from their exact location.”
The multicultural association has three vans operating right now: one based in Listowel, one in Stratford and one in Exeter.
However, Wordofa said the service is available to anyone in Wellington, Perth, Huron, and Oxford Counties.
He noted most people are excited to get into the association’s vans, as many are hesitant to take a regular taxi during the pandemic.
“The van has masks for people if they don’t already have one, it is fully sanitized, and we provide refreshments for people as well,” Wordofa said.
“It can be hard for someone to get from Mount Forest to Cambridge if they that’s where they need to get to. So that’s why we transport them.”
The association serves about 8,000 people, mostly newcomers to Canada, in Perth, Huron, Oxford, and Wellington Counties.
It also delivers food, clothing, furniture and other necessities to new arrivals, as well as arranges housing, helps enroll their children in school, assists with immigration documentation, and provides translation services in more than 30 languages.
The association has also delivered masks, supplies and services for a project sponsored by the Government of Canada and the Canadian Red Cross.
Wordofa said the Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron currently has 51 volunteers, including people from as far away as Syria.
“Our main goal is to give newcomers information on COVID-19, educate them, and get them access to vaccines,” Wordofa said.
“We also help supply people information, food, and supplies like toilet paper. We have flyers in 31 languages that inform people about COVID-19.”
Helping newcomers and underprivileged people has long been a passion for Wordofa.
Originally from Ethiopia, he founded the Multicultural Association of Perth-Huron in September of 2011.
A former Goodwill World Peace Ambassador, Wordofa came to Canada from Russia, where he met his wife while completing his PhD.
In 2012, he was awarded with the “Newcomer Service Award” from the province of Ontario.
Wordofa said he considers himself lucky and “blessed” to be in Canada.
“My life is not easy, but I enjoy what I do every day,” Wordofa said.
“This is a tough time for everyone, and it is a time for us to help each other. We are very excited about helping people, and we operate 24/7.”