It’s a special year for the staff and volunteers of Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.) as the organization is marking 35 years of serving the community.
To that end, a special exhibit is currently being featured at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery entitled ‘C.A.R.E. – Welcoming Immigrants to Central Alberta for 35 Years: Part One – Early Beginnings’.
The exhibit runs through to Jan. 24th.
“We’ve had a longstanding collaboration with C.A.R.E.,” said Lorna Johnson, executive director of the Museum during the exhibit’s official opening this past weekend. “For this exhibit, we are featuring the stories of some of the Vietnamese refugees who came to Red Deer in 1979. This was also really the impetus for the formation of C.A.R.E.
“All of the incredible work that C.A.R.E. has done over the years was really the result of those first refugees who came here.” ‘Early Beginnings’ tells the stories of two individuals’ journeys – Sherry Diep and Muoi Ngo as they left their homes to escape the communist regime of Vietnam, according to a press release. In the late 1970s, Red Deer, along with many other communities in Canada, responded to the plight of the ‘boat people’ – fleeing the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
“Between 1975 and 1980, over 56,000 Vietnamese immigrants came to Canada. Many were sponsored by local churches, community groups and organizations. The Red Deer Ministerial Association asked for assistance in helping these refugees resettle in Red Deer and area. The culmination of work from organizations and individuals came together on Aug. 13th, 1979 with the formation of C.A.R.E.S. – the Central Alberta Relief Effort for Sponsorship.”
In early 1980, the organization became a registered non-profit society and at that time, the society changed the name to the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.)
According to the exhibit, Diep lost six members of her immediate family in the 1960s. She, her husband Sam and their three young children arrived in Edmonton in August of 1979.
“In Red Deer they were met by an employee from Manpower, given a basic introduction to the City and taken to a hotel for a one week stay until they rented a small downtown apartment. They were given a small amount of grocery money and one month’s rent before being left on their own.
“Later, Sherry was able to launch her own restaurant business, in 1993, eventually working together with Sam and currently their two daughters. One of her joys in life is that through her business, she has been able to help hundreds of people in desperate situations, sending money to those in need.” The family owns Pho Thuy Duong Vietnamese Restaurant.
Ngo originally settled in Lethbridge. Her first job in Red Deer was at the Salvation Army and she occasionally attended English classes.
Her sister emigrated to Red Deer in 1991. “The family are thankful to Canadians for being nice and opening the doors to them. One of Muoi’s goals is to always be a good citizen.”
Meanwhile, the work at C.A.R.E. continues – the organization is a thriving hub offering all kinds of programs, services and supports for those new to Central Alberta.
To that end, they provide a wide range of programs and services to folks settling in Central Alberta from English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and translation and interpretation services to an immigrant youth program and immigrant men’s and women’s support groups.
Ultimately, it’s about helping people feel comfortable with the new aspects they may find they have to deal with across North American culture.
Another popular program is the Connecting Newcomers program which builds community connections between newcomers and established Canadians. The program can match volunteers with newcomers on a one-to-one basis who then meet on a regular basis for three to four months.
The Immigrant Youth Program is similar in that staff and volunteers help youth new to the country settle into new school routines. But it’s also about building a social structure for them as well. The teen years can be tough enough as it is – adding the pressures of fitting into a brand new culture can really require some assistance along the way.
Frank Bauer, executive director, added that C.A.R.E. in general certainly relies on the support of a solid base of volunteers. This is also where public awareness programs come in – educating local communities in general about multiculturalism and the misconceptions that some hold about immigrants. Another example is employer engagement, which is about creating a culturally inclusive workplace.
As mentioned, it’s a special year at C.A.R.E. as the organization is marking its 35th anniversary. Part of celebrating that achievement was held this past April with the successful Around the World with CARE fundraiser. And there has been continued growth with recent renovations – expanding teaching and office spaces in their ideal downtown location.
As for the Museum, folks can drop by on Dec. 6th from 1 to 4 p.m. for an open house. Donations will be accepted on behalf of the Red Deer Food Bank and the Safe Harbour Society.