Volunteers, users reflect on the need for Windsor food banks

Fred Muvunga settled in Windsor with his family after fleeing the Congo to escape war and moving around much of Africa.

Safe in Canada, he needed to get his life back together. He had trouble finding well-paying jobs, even though Muvunga holds two master’s degrees and two bachelor’s degrees from outside of Canada.

Unable to find work in Windsor, he was told Edmonton might be lucrative and moved his entire family there. However, he wasn’t successful and worse, it didn’t have the same supports for him and his family.

“You don’t have the support. You might have some little money, maybe some help from the government, but when you don’t have services like the one we have here with [the] food bank, life becomes a hell. It becomes difficult,” Muvunga said.

So they moved back.

Fred Muvunga says the food bank has been the support he needs. Suzan Allawi is one of the volunteers at the Unemployed Help Center food bank, saying it feels great to give back. Her family used the food bank when they came to Canada from Syria in 2000.

“At least here, I mean with the food bank here, we are really, I mean it’s not extra support. It’s the support that we need,” he said.

Muvunga visits the food bank at the Unemployed Help Center monthly. He said with six children and sometimes needing to support relatives, there can be upwards of 14 people at home, which can be a big challenge that the food bank helps address.

Suzan Allawi is one of the volunteers Muvunga meets when he collects the much-needed food for his family. She’s been volunteering at the Unemployed Help Center’s food bank for a month.

“It just inspires you. It just makes you connect with it everybody, every type of certain people that come and go,” she said.

Allawi and her family came to Canada from Syria in 2000, when she was just four. They also used food banks when they first arrived.

“Coming from somebody that was a refugee, like me and my family, that people that would need the help or anybody that you can just give back to, it’s something that makes your heart really warm and you feel like a good person doing it, ” she said.

Suzan Allawi volunteers at the Unemployed Help Center food bank as a way to give back. Her family came from Syria in 2000 and says they used food banks when they first arrived. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Since Allawi only recently started volunteering, more veteran volunteers have told her to give everyone coming in the same amount of respect you would anyone else.

“Anybody that comes through, I give them a warm smile and I laugh with them, I joke with them,” she said. “I just make them feel comfortable.”

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