Chet Greason email@example.com
A prominent Stratford advocate has been awarded the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award. Gezaghn Wordofa, director of the Multicultural Association Perth-Huron, was recognized by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Lloyd Johnston and his wife Sharon at a ceremony in Kitchener-Waterloo on Sept. 22.
Wordofa was honoured for his various volunteer positions with organizations like the United Way, the House of Blessing, the Salvation Army, and the Canadian Red Cross. His position as founder of the Multicultural Association was noted, as was his work as a Goodwill World Peace Ambassador through the United Nations.
“He continues to support international initiatives and programs relating to refugees and the homeless in Russia, and actively raises funds for health clinics, schools and clean water for small communities in Ethiopia,” reads an excerpt from the Governor General’s website.
Wordofa says he initially thought the award was a prank.
“I didn’t believe it. I was very shocked,” he said during an interview in his office on Monday.
Wordofa explains that, following an initial call, he was contacted while volunteering at the recent exhibition put on by the Snowbirds in Stratford. The representative told him he and his wife would be expected at a dinner, attended by the Governor General.
Thinking it might be a scam, Wordofa Googled the phone number, discovering it had indeed come from Rideau Hall.
While Wordofa appreciates the gesture, he feels it should be him thanking Canada, which he calls a land of opportunity.
“Nobody says, ‘Thank you, Canada’” he notes. “Many stateless people are faced with numerous difficulties in their daily lives. They have a lack of access to health care, education, property rights, and the ability to move freely.
“Canada gives back these opportunities to people.”
In fact, the scope of opportunities upon arrival in Canada can be overwhelming for some. That’s where Wordofa’s Multicultural Association comes in. The organization seeks to ease the transition for newcomers as much as possible.
Wordofa describes newcomers used to traversing on camels or donkeys who are floored by the abundance of automobiles here. Others cannot believe the plenitude of food.
He describes one young family unsure of how to properly utilize a Western bathroom, or a woman from Latin America who was afraid to vote in Stratford, convinced the police would be there to threaten her like they do in her homeland.
That particular Monday afternoon, he was preparing to lead a workshop on recycling and blue boxes.
“Sometimes newcomers can lose themselves,” he says. “Everything’s available. They don’t know what to do.”
The award is another recent high point in Wordofa’s career. His Multicultural Association just celebrated its first year as an initiative of the United Way on Oct. 19. He was also recognized in 2012 as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebration.
Through it all, Wordofa remains humble. He thanks his wife, Nicole, for inviting him to live here in the first place. Because of the opportunities the country has afforded him, he insists that, everyday, he’s celebrating Canada.
“If Canada does something for us, we need to do something for Canada,” he says.