Imagine moving to an entirely new country, not knowing the language and suddenly finding yourself submerged in a strange new culture. Then, not long after arriving, a global health pandemic hits.
Now you’re in an unfamiliar place under unprecedented circumstances, with no idea how long they will last or where to go for help.
They are struggles that are all too real for dozens of families new to Calgary; struggles that volunteers with the charity EthioCare have heard firsthand.
“Every day we are getting phone calls…10, 15, 25 phone calls,” said Bekele Hankebo, team lead with EthioCare.
“We found a huge [number] of people in need.”
EthioCare started in 2018 as a non-profit to help new immigrants from east Africa transition to their new life in Canada. One of its main objectives is to help with any mental health issues that may arise along the way.
But since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the charity expanded its services.
It now helps feed more than 50 families in the city’s east African community through food hampers. Volunteers also sourced out 65 donated desktop computers from Computer for Schools Alberta to give to kids who need them for online classes.
“They are waiting for us desperately,” Hankebo said. “Kids are at home at they have no computers at all.”
Every Friday night, the volunteer group takes over the airwaves of a Calgary-based radio station. The programming offers vital health information, the latest information from governments and outlines key new developments in the fight against COVID-19, all in their native language of Amharic.
And the group still remains focused on mental health, especially given our uncertain times.
“Our fear is this is going to increase,” Hankebo said. So he and his team of volunteers continue to source out support services for anyone experiencing extra anxiety, stress or other mental health concerns.
While volunteers have shown unwavering support, offering their services for free everyday for the last month, funding for the expanded services has now dried up.
Hankebo is reaching out for more grants, but in the meantime, the group won’t have the finances to continue offering food hampers for families in need.