It was March 19, 2016 when my friends and I handed the very first welcome pack box to the very first new immigrant who came to meet us at Bakerite in Keewatin Street. It has been a year since our very first distribution, 10 distributions were held and more than 2,000 boxes were distributed in Winnipeg. This simple way of “community service” was one of the significant events of my 2016.
Looking back on how this all started, it was in December of 2015 when I first came across Welcome Pack, though it was only available to Ontario residents during that time, I decided to blog about this because I thought that it is something interesting for new immigrants. Little did I know that this post about welcome pack will become one of my most popular posts, until I had the opportunity to collaborate with the people behind these boxes and this is where www.momsiecle.com introduced this newcomer’s kit to Winnipeg new immigrants.
I can still recall how I reached out to my friends to join me in the distribution as I need help in bringing 30 of the 20 lbs. cases (150 gift boxes) to the distribution area. The first distribution was held at Bakerite, being newly-arrived immigrants themselves, the owners of Bakerite, Manny and Emily Adao instantly said yes when I approached them if I could use their bakery as the venue for the distribution. The supposedly 2 days’ distribution was cut short to a 6-hour distribution because all boxes were claimed. And from then on, we distributed this welcoming box almost every month, for each month, we are handing out 200 to 300 boxes to Winnipeg newcomers.
Honestly, when I agreed to distribute this gift boxes, I was expecting that it will just be a one-time activity, I did not expect that people will even care if they get a box or not… I was wrong, more often than not, after each distribution, I will always get comments or private messages on my Facebook account from people who failed to come to pick up their boxes or other new immigrants or their family who just knew about the recently held distribution. They are all asking for the next schedule of our distribution. But the best “take home” for me every after distribution is the opportunity to meet not just my fellow Filipino new immigrants but even those immigrants who immigrated from India, Israel, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Pakistan, Nepal, Ethiopia, Kenya or China. I even met people who were telling me that even before they arrived in Winnipeg, they already know me as “Momsiecle” because they have been following my blog. There were also instances that some of these welcome pack recipients became my online friends – there were those who asked advice regarding their settlement in Winnipeg and some asked tips on their job hunting.
I am also an immigrant. Just like the new comers that I meet every time we distribute welcome packs, I also travelled the immigrant journey. When my husband and I came to Canada 8 years ago, there was no welcome pack available to new immigrants, when I first came, I don’t know how to order a double-double coffee from Tim Hortons. I didn’t know what Sears or The Bay is, I am unaware that banks in Canada charge it’s depositors for a monthly fee to keep their chequing account. I hardly know anything about Winnipeg.
“Welcome Pack Canada” program is presented to new comers as a keepsake-designed box filled with few gift items and coupons from more than 30 leading brands in Canada with handouts/magazine offering advice and information to newcomers regarding settlement in Canada. It’s all about understanding the mindset of new immigrants and to introduce new brands to them.
The box content may not seem much and could mean nothing to others, but for someone who is just starting out, these items are definitely useful.
But more importantly, what I want the newcomers to feel whenever they receive their box is a warm welcome from their new neighbour. This gesture that my friends and I are doing is just like when someone moved into a new neighborhood and we are like those neighbors who bother to come by and say “hello, welcome to the neighborhood.” We want our new neighbor to feel the warm welcome and not to feel strange and know that they have neighbours to ask help from.
For me and my friends, distributing welcome pack is a “service.”
To the more than 2,000 new immigrants that we met in the past 12 months, it was our pleasure to meet you in person… and to those that we are going to meet in our coming distributions, we are looking forward to meet you and tell you, “welcome to Winnipeg!”
Winnipeg Blogger reaches out to New Immigrants to get Welcome Pack, post published by Donna Natividad-Arenas, radio host of CKJS’s Good Morning Philippines.