Montrealers host winter clothing drive for asylum seekers

A volunteer helps an asylum seeker at the winter clothing drive in Villeray on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018.
A volunteer helps an asylum seeker at the winter clothing drive in Villeray on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Jonah Aspler/Global News

Muhammed Khan, his wife and their three children are originally from Pakistan.

Eight months ago, they arrived in Montreal seeking asylum.

They say one thing they’ve had to adapt to is the cold weather.

“This winter, for us, is surprising because in my life I’ve never seen this kind of snow and things. I come from a very hot country,” said Khan.

READ MORE: Salvation Army seeks winter jacket donations for refugees not ready for Quebec winter

There are many newcomers like them who arrive in Montreal unprepared.

When Olivia Viveros realized this, she knew she needed to help.

Viveros reached out to the non-profit Welcome Collective, and together they organized a winter clothing drive.

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“The atmosphere is getting a bit negative. There’s a lot of negative things being said about asylum seekers, and I wanted to have a positive impact on those families so they can feel welcomed and safe in our country,” she said.

READ MORE: Over 5,500 asylum seekers crossed Quebec border illegally in August

Dozens of families got the chance to pick out coats, snow pants, boots and accessories — all donated by Montrealers.

One of the many volunteers helping families pick out their new winter clothes was Elizabeth Ajoke Ogunsemowo.

Elizabeth Ajoke Ogunsemowo
Elizabeth Ajoke Ogunsemowo. Jonah Aspler/Global News

An asylum seeker herself, she says she understands what these families are going through.

READ MORE: Nigerian newcomers grateful to be in Canada, find hope in new surroundings in Montreal

“I came in from the United States, originally from Nigeria. It’s been an overwhelming experience. I’ve met a lot of kind people here. I came in with nothing — absolutely nothing — and I was nine months pregnant,” she said.

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The new mother says that when she arrived in February, one of the first things she received from a Montrealer was a jacket.

“When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a bit of an emergency and I was going to the emergency room. It was snowing and I didn’t have anything — I only had just my clothes. The first person who saw me was a driver, and he gave me a warm jacket. I know how that encouraged me,” she said.