When Maria Ilias came to Sudbury seven months ago, she didn't know anyone in the city other than her husband and son.
She immigrated from Cuba to Toronto 10 years ago, but recently relocated to Sudbury after her husband found a job here. “I didn't know anybody or about anything,” she said. “It was so hard.”
But thanks to the Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association, things have changed for Ilias.
The association has attempted to help her find employment. While she hasn't yet landed a job, she's been able to participate in volunteer work. Ilias also said she appreciates the friends she's met through the association.
“I met nice people, and now I know more about the city where I live,” she said in a pamphlet for the group's Nov. 9 fundraising gala.
“I learned how this city is warm, despite having cold weather. I observed a dedication and concern for the welfare of the community. That impressed me.”
Ilias was just one of several hundred people who attended the gala, which took place at the Caruso Club. Also at the event were dignitaries such as Mayor Marianne Matichuk, Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci and MP Claude Gravelle.
The evening included an auction, a dinner featuring food from several different countries and performances by ethnic dancers. Organizers hoped to raise at least $25,000 for the association through the event.
During the event, the association presented a plaque to the Lougheed family for its community service over the years, as well as to Sudbury Fine Cars owner George Malis for his contribution to the local Greek and Sudbury community.
Dr. Remi Ogundimu, first vice-president with the Sudbury Multicultural and Folk Arts Association, said she always looks forward to the gala.
“It is good to share,” she said. “It promotes understanding, so people don't have any wrong ideas about what people do or why you do what you do.
“It opens room for people to have dialogue and also appreciate each other, and also appreciate the differences that are there around the world. When they've come together under one roof, I think it's a good thing.”
Ogundimu came to Canada from Nigeria as a student in 1978, and moved to Sudbury in 1985. Through her family's participation in the association, she said her children grew up with an appreciation of other cultures.
“When my children were very young, I attended a lot of the activities,” Ogundimu said. “They are familiar with Italian, Greek, Irish and Indian culture, as well as all of the other cultures that were around.”
The association's president, Dr. Rayudu Koka, who is originally from India, said he didn't need any help settling himself when he moved to Sudbury. But he's
dedicated himself to helping newcomers like Ilias feel at home in the community.
Beyond promoting multiculturalism, the association's staff try to help newcomers access social service agencies and find employment, he said. They also offer free English and French classes.
For more information about the organization, visit www.sudburymulticultural.org or phone 705-674-0795.