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​SmartStart: Newcomers give back through safety program

Guest post by Michael Obendoerfer, Red Cross blogger in Manitoba

According to Kassahun Shambo, an emigrant from Ethiopia, being a newcomer to Manitoba can be a frustrating experience. 

Shambo remembers walking with a friend, another newcomer to Canada, who slipped and injured himself on a patch of ice. The men didn’t know what to do, so they went to a local shopping mall and asked people where they could get medical help.

Kassahun Shambo gives back through SmartStartNow that Shambo, pictured left, is comfortable with life in Manitoba, he volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross SmartStart program. SmartStart helps newcomers learn how to live safely in a country that is often vastly different from their homelands.

The program, sponsored by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries and Manitoba Public Insurance, is delivered through a workshop and covers topics such as emergency contact numbers, swimming and water safety, emergency preparedness and extreme weather.

Kirvy Quiambao moved to Winnipeg from the Philippines in 2010 and also volunteers with the SmartStart program. He said Manitoba’s freezing winters are one of the biggest challenges for newcomers. 

Kirvy Quiambao, from the Philippines, also volunteers with SmartStart“Usually after the presentation some people would come to us,” Quiambao said, pictured right. “They would say the presentation was helpful, especially the part where we explain cold weather emergencies. Most of the participants are from warm weather countries and they have no idea of what to wear or how to be safe when there is snow and ice.”

Some people who attend the workshops are still learning English. Quiambao said they appreciate how volunteers use photos and bring in physical objects such as mittens and smoke detectors as part of the presentation.

Quiambao says while many programs help newcomers, SmartStart is especially important because it provides them with information they need for everyday life.

Quiambao and Shambo are proud to help newcomers avoid some of the issues they faced as new Canadians, and safely transition to life in Manitoba.
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