CBC Manitoba


Refugees have a particularly hard time making ends meet in this land of opportunity. The most recently available statistics suggest over 90 percent of refugees are living in poverty one year after arriving in Winnipeg. And three years after arriving here, more than 50 percent of refugees remain in poverty. Other new arrivals don’t have it much better, in 2007 nearly one-fourth of all immigrants to the province were struggling on poverty-level incomes.

Blog- Mwumvaneza Azarias

Mwumvaneza Azarias is Rwandan refugee who is a full time Red River College student who works evenings as a part-time tutor. He and his wife receive social assistance amounting to $1522 monthly to support themselves and four children. A fifth child is on the way. Their financial troubles are compounded by the fact that they owe the Canadian government $7000 – a loan that is being repaid at a rate of $200 per month to cover the cost of their transportation from Africa to Canada when they settled here. Mwumvaneza’s educational credentials (he worked in the hydrology department for the Rwandan Ministry of Agriculture and studied at university in Ukraine) have not yet been recognized in Canada.

Day 1


I am Azarias and I have just arrived at home and I wanted to write about today.

I woke up at 7:00 am and I prepared myself and prepared the children for the day. After bathing and clothing we all had breakfast at around 7:35 am. We had a normal breakfast of bread with margarine and tea with milk. Because we are on a tight budget, we shop for food in little bits – visiting the supermarket four times per week. I love hot chocolate but can’t afford it due to my monthly budget. One good thing is that if our children are sick, treatment is free because we are on social assistance.

Around 8:00 am I left for the Red River College Notre Dame campus. I took bus 44 via Louelda and downtown and then bus 19 to the campus. I take the bus each day and a monthly student bus ticket is $57.My wife does not go to school for now since she is pregnant and finds herself too tired.

I arrived at Red River on time to begin classes at 9:00 a.m. The first lesson we had was Environmental Health. The lesson was interesting and all the students were there except two who were sick. The lesson went until 11:30 a.m. We then went on break for lunch. I had a simple lunch of soup and bread. I felt comfortable taking it with my friends. For my lunch I have budgeted $72.80 each month. This includes soup each day at $3.64 and if you multiply that times the 20 days I go to school it is $72.80. This is what I can afford. The food at the Red River College is too expensive and I cannot afford a complete meal as lunch because it costs around $7 to $10.

After lunch I went to the computer room to check my emails. Then I went for the next class lesson which started at 1:00 p.m. It is a course on Board Development taught by Marianne Cerilli. I enjoyed the teachings and we went until 4:00 p.m.

After that I rushed right away to my job at IRCOM (Immigrant and Refugee Community of Manitoba) house. I am working in the Children’s and Youth program - an after school program. There are two sessions. In the first one we had the children between 5 and 12 years. We teach them arts and crafts. It was amazing. This program went from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. After that I had a break of one hour. During the break I read my book on negotiations because we have a quiz on Thursday. At 7:00 pm we started the program for the youths. Today we had 17 young people. We took them swimming in a pool on Sargent Ave. The youngsters enjoyed themselves and we left at 9:10pm. We have escorted them to their homes and after that I came home at 9:55 p.m. where my own children were sleeping and my wife gave me food and tea. After this I took time to write this blog.


Day 2


I woke up at 7:00am and prepared myself and woke the kids so that they could also get ready to go to school. We had a humble breakfast of tea and bread. We cannot afford anything more than this. After that I went to school by 44 bus and 19 bus to the Red River College. My first class today ended at 12:00 and I went for lunch. I can afford to buy soup for my lunch but nothing more. That’s because the food is so expensive at the Red River College. If you buy a full meal it is around $7 to $10 and I cannot afford to pay such amount. The thing about the soup is that it is directly digested and I feel hungry for much of the day. But I tolerate the hunger until around 10:00 p.m. when I get back home. I have no any other choice. Everything in our budget is calculated to the penny and a slight mistake can result in so many problems.

I went back home and I had supper around 10:00 p.m. After that I started preparing my assignments. This took me until midnight and I went to sleep.


Day 3


I woke up at 7:00 am as usual and I started preparing myself for school. I did not have breakfast today because I was running late. When I arrived in school I could not buy a cup of hot chocolate because I couldn’t afford it. So I waited until 12:00 noon for the break and had soup for lunch: $3.64. I went with my classmates and always I tell them that I like the soup for my lunch. This is because I do not want to reveal my financial problems to anyone. Being poor is considered shameful in our culture and so men do not complain about the lack of food. If you complain you are considered a coward or a useless person. But I cannot even buy a drink because we are on such a tight budget.

In the afternoon classes resumed and continued until 4:00 p.m. Then I went to IRCOM In IRCOM where we had fun helping with the children and the youth program. When I left there at 9:10 p.m. I was very tired.

I arrived at home at 10:15 pm. I had then supper and I started my homework. I slept at around midnight.

Day 4

Today I woke up at 7:00 a.m. as usual. I prepared myself and got the kids ready for the day. At 7:27 a.m. I meet with the Radio Canada people who came to my house for pictures. We were together until 7:50 a.m. when we went outside to wait for the 44 bus.

They have seen the kind of breakfast we have: tea and bread. It is very difficult to make changes due to our constant problem of a tiny budget – we can’t spend more than we have. Due to the interview with CBC I had no time for breakfast and got to school a bit late. I had nothing to eat until 12:30 when I was able to have soup for lunch. My stomach was churning. But this is a sacrifice and I am enduring. I get used to it because there are no other alternatives.

After lunch I went to afternoon classes which ended at 4:00 p.m. When I left school I was very hungry but could not even buy a cup of hot chocolate. When I look at my budget I have to be very careful and be strict on myself. I know that one day I will overcome this situation. That is why I went back to school. I hope to be a graduate and get a job and stand on my own feet. I hope for a brighter future for me and for my kids. These sufferings are for a short period of time and after this the sun will rise.


Day 5

I woke up at 7:00 am as usual and I started to prepare myself in order to go school. I also got the kids ready for the day and after that we had a humble breakfast of bread and tea. I took the 44 bus and the 19 bus to Red River College. For lunch I again had the soup which is very cheap. I have soup because I cannot afford a complete meal which costs between $7 to $10. That would be too much every day to spend on myself while I have a family of four children. I sacrifice in order to make ends meet at the end of the month. I cannot even afford to buy a drink for the lunch because it will be a burden for my family. I try to be happy with what I have - although it is not easy.

I left the school today at around 4:00 p.m.

Today I went to the Superstore for groceries. In order to avoid a deficit I bought the strictest minimum number of food items for my family. All my family members are aware that one day we will stand on our own feet. We sacrifice today hoping for a brighter future tomorrow.

I went to bed at around midnight due to the homework and assignments I had to complete for school.