'I couldn't be more proud': 1st Rohingya community centre opens in Kitchener
Centre will support Rohingyas, become inclusive space for wider community
Rohingyas living in Waterloo region now have a place to gather and seek help as the doors open to the area's first Rohingya centre in downtown Kitchener.
Saifullah Muhamad had previously worked to support fellow Rohingyas in Malaysia before he came to Canada in 2017. He immediately decided he wanted to open a centre in Waterloo region to support his community here.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called the Rohingya "one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world" and 600 of of Canada's 1000 Rohingya live here in Waterloo region, according to the Rohingya Centre of Canada.
Once the doors officially open at the Duke Street location on Saturday, Muhamad said the goal is to help other Rohingyas in any way possible, whether it's with citizenship questions or helping them settle in a new country.
"They don't need to go to other places to ask for services or wait two or three weeks for an appointment," Muhamad told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.
"People can come and walk in and if they have any problems or need to fill out an application, they can do it easily here. They can explain it to us in our language."
Muhamad hopes the centre also grows to become a hub where Rohingyas can share culture, language and create programs for themselves and the broader community.
That's why he wanted to be sure the centre was open before April 1, when Ramadan starts.
"We can come together and enjoy and celebrate Ramada with the community, so this centre is not just for us, the Rohingya community, it's for the neighbouring community as well," he said.
Ahmed Ullah, who has been working with Muhamad, said he feels proud to have dedicated space for his community.
"I couldn't be more proud," Ullah said. "Everyone has worked so hard."
Pointing to a trophy cabinet that is part of the centre's main office, he explains that many of the trophies are from a soccer tournament the local Rohingya community took part in over the years.
"This is proof that Rohingya people do have talents and when they are given the chance, they can thrive like any other community and this is a centre to start it." Ullah said.
"We feel the responsibility to carry this community and make sure someone is speaking about them."