Having survived our second pandemic summer, September is upon us, and schools are about to reopen after a prolonged lockdown . In Ontario all high school students must complete 40 hours of community service in order to graduate. This program not only benefits the community but encourages high school students to get to know their community and to contribute to society. At HEFC we welcome these student volunteers who help keep our program functioning smoothly. This month we want to highlight our student volunteers, our Heroes of HEFC for September.
At HEFC in the kitchen area, I met with student volunteers, Delmat and Loreal Takou who were patiently measuring out cups of oatmeal from a fifty-pound bag into smaller plastic bags for distribution to clients.
They shyly explained that when they and their family arrived as immigrants from Bafoussam, a city of nearly 900,000 in the highlands of Cameroon in Africa, seven years ago, they needed to come to HEFC for emergency food supplies to tide them over the transition period.
Delmat, now 17, attends Pierre Savard High School and, needing her community service credit, approached Louisa Simms, our executive coordinator to see if she could do her community service hours at HEFC. She enjoyed her time as a volunteer so much that she has remained throughout the pandemic and will have been volunteering for three years. this coming October.
Delmat, now an experienced volunteer, works in all areas of the food bank, including serving clients who arrive in need of extra food, as once did her own family. Loreal, her younger sister, who will be 15 this September (Happy Birthday Loreal!) and who goes to Mother Theresa Secondary School has also begun volunteering. Not only are Delmat and Loreal reliable volunteers, but they have recruited their mother, Clarisse, and their friends, Alan Tawa, Audrey Momo, and Lucinda Nguetsop, who also immigrated from Bafoussam.
They are now a team of six volunteers, all from the same hometown back in Cameroon, helping in a food bank here in Ottawa.
Delmat and Loreal explained that their first language is French - as well as the languages spoken back in Bafoussam – so that they are still not too confident speaking English - and that the educational system is quite different in Cameroon. At first they had problems understanding people and felt quite shy. This was made even more challenging when they were placed with children who were several years younger than they were, in the Ottawa school system . Volunteering at HEFC has helped them to feel more self-confident and relaxed, and they feel they are “fitting in now” to their new country. Loreal says she feels very comfortable, “ I can say anything I want” and Delmat dreams of becoming an engineer when she finishes university. Both parents are now teachers in French language schools in the Ottawa area.
I asked the girls if they had anything they wanted to tell The Vistas readers, and they said that HEFC was good place to work, where everyone was treated fairly, and people were kind to each other. They did mention, however, that they do miss the food from back home. They are not fans, for example, of canned pork and beans. I can relate.
Herongate, where Heron Emergency Food Centre is located, is a working class neighbourhood, which shelters folks, many of them immigrants and refugees, from all over the world. At HEFC people born in Canada, the middle East, Africa, the Caribbean, central America, south Asia, and east Asia, meet and mingle and work together to support each other in getting established in their new homeland. We are proud to support this process, as we are to provide an opportunity for high school students to participate in community service.
On Tuesday September 28 at 7 PM we are planning to hold our long delayed Annual General Meeting, by Zoom. We are proud to announce that we will have a special guest speaker, Rachel Wilson, the new Executive Director of the Ottawa Food Bank, who will be talking about the new Strategic Plan for the Ottawa Food Bank and all the agencies, including HEFC, whom it serves.
Members of the board of HEFC are able and willing to share information about the service we provide for our community, through Zoom and other virtual formats even though in person events are not yet possible. Call us at 613 737-9090 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Check us out on Twitter HEFC.ca@HeronfoodCentre
Heron Emergency Food Centre is located at 1480 Heron Road and is open 4 days a week to provide emergency food to people in need in Ottawa South.
SEPTEMBER WISH LIST
We welcome cash and food donations including tuna, canned vegetables, canned tomato sauce, canned soup, chickpeas, kidney beans, cereal, snacks for children and personal hygiene items.