A new Program Director has been recently hired at Eastman Immigrant Services, a branch of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce. E.I.S. has been supporting newcomers and immigrants in southern Manitoba for 20 years.
Freddy Muganza is originally from the primarily French-language country of Democratic Republic of the Congo and is himself a new immigrant to Canada.
Muganza and his wife, Detty Juwe Kajuru and their 5 children accepted the invitation of his brother (who was already living in Toronto) and arrived in Canada with his family on February 1, 2019.
“I will tell you, when I landed here, there was no other stop from the Winnipeg Airport we got a transport straight to Steinbach. I never lived even one night in Winnipeg.”
Muganza remembers the frigid February day, four years ago, when they got to their new home.
“We went into the empty house on a Friday. Saturday, we Googled a place to worship, and boom, Grace Mennonite Church came up on our search and so on Sunday we went to Grace Mennonite Church with all our clothes. We didn’t even have warm clothes because we came from South Africa where it was 30 degrees. We landed here it was minus 40, that’s a 70 degrees difference.”
Muganza says the congregants at the Grace Mennonite welcomed them and helped them get established with furniture for their home and even suggested a job at Providence University College in Otterburne in his profession as a Chemist.
He recalls that two days after landing in Canada, the first stop was to purchase winter clothing and the second was to the Eastman Immigrant Services office. Muganza remembers the kindness of everyone at Eastman Immigrant Services for wanting to help him find a job nearby, and because of his Master’s and Doctorate in Chemistry from the University of Cape Town, in South Africa, they suggested Bausch Health in Steinbach.
Muganza remembers working many hours at Bosch while part-time teaching at Providence as well as volunteering at Eastman Immigrant Services teaching technology to newcomers. He had a real desire to give back to a country that had welcomed him.
In those first years in Canada, Muganza was also on the Immigration Advisory Table. He describes the organization and other volunteer positions.
“It deals with how to advise people on how to treat immigrants and what their needs are, those kinds of things. I was also involved in L.I.P., which is the Local Immigration Partnership. I was also involved in E.R.I.P, which is the Eastman Region Immigration Partnership, and I was also involved in the francophone community. So, last October I was nominated to be the chairperson of the francophone community.”
Since arriving in Canada, Muganza has immersed himself in the lives of newcomers to the area and is always wanting to bring unity and community to this very culturally diverse city.
It was during his time at Bosch that Muganza discovered that Chemistry wasn’t challenging him anymore, so he decided to take an online business course. After completing it in half the time required, he now has his Masters in Business Administration.
With all this learning, Muganza says, helping immigrant settlers has been very much on his heart, because “I do understand their needs.”
He himself has gone through all the processes it takes to become a Canadian Citizen. He’s had many struggles in his life that he’s had to push through and not give up. Muganza explains why he feels his new job as Program Director for E.I.S. is a good fit for him,
“If an immigrant comes here, I understand how he feels, because I've been through a lot. If someone comes and say, I'm crying because my brother is in a war in Ukraine. I know what he feels, I know. When he says I don't have food today, I know. When he says there’s shooting in my country. I know. When he says my family has been running for their lives on foot, I know - I have that feeling.”
Muganza encourages newcomers to the area to not give up. To keep looking for those opportunities to find a job. Find a place to live. Come to Eastman Immigrant Services.
He says, if there is an immigrant that wants to meet with him, he will push everything aside on his schedule to spend with that person.
“I have a policy, because I know with someone who's in need, you don't postpone him, you don't send away, “Come tomorrow” No. I've got an open-door policy. Knock on the door. Come inside. Have a seat. Then talk. If there is an immigrant who comes, “I want to see Freddy” with no appointment. Nothing. I say “Yes. Come inside. Please sit.” Because I know that someone who has a problem doesn't want you to make him wait. You don't know what you tell him will comfort him. Sometimes we have to be human. So, because I've been through a lot, I know how to hurt me when someone told me, come after two weeks.”
With this passion Muganza will be working with the 17 staff at E.I.S., the many volunteers and the diverse programming for all ages and a large variety of activities.