Wildfire evacuees stuck in Winnipeg get a taste of home
Roughly 200 evacuees served home-cooked meal
They may be safe from the wildfires that are threatening their communities while in Winnipeg, but the city is a long way from home for the evacuees who have escaped the fire and heavy smoke currently raging through northern Manitoba.
That's why chefs from the Ghetto Chef Culinary Project — a local program dedicated to keeping at-risk youth in the kitchen instead of on the streets — brought a few of the comforts of home, including a home-cooked meal, to around 200 evacuees at a special dinner held at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre Monday.
"They lost everything, they're forced out of their homes and they had to come here to Winnipeg — they have nothing and they left all their stuff behind," said Maryann Moar, manager of the Ghetto Chef Culinary Project. "We need to come together and help everybody."
The event saw chefs from the program spend much of the day in the kitchen preparing a meal that included traditional fry-bread, roasts and soups.
One of those chefs, Robert Rodericks — better known as Chef Bear — is a former gang member who left the gang life eight years ago after he says he got tired of seeing teens like him getting enticed into the lifestyle.
Rodericks was in St. Theresa Point to run a cooking workshop when the evacuation order was called. He said he was motivated to help after watching children sleeping in the airport and seeing families forced to leave their homes with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
"It inspired me to really step up and help," he said while taking a break from cooking Monday's meal. "I usually try to do a lot of events and I try to help a lot of people, and I thought since I was there personally and was personally involved I would get more involved once I came here, because these people do need this help."
As well as a home-cooked meal, evacuees were entertained by jiggers from Sagkeeng's Finest, and the Ghetto Chefs also brought in motivational speakers for the event.
"We need that energy and that uplifting spirit — this is a very hard time," said Moar. "We just need that strength and that motivation to keep pushing through — they're not alone."
Winnipeggers also stepped up and have been filling Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre with donations of clothing, hygiene items and toys for the kids since Friday. Organizers said any of the donations that were left over after the event would be taken to the RBC Convention Centre on Tuesday to be given out to evacuees who couldn't make the dinner.
Roughly 4,300 people have been displaced from Garden Hill, Wasagamack and St. Theresa Point First Nations due to a wildfire burning near their communities.
Another 740 people were expected to come to Winnipeg from Garden Hill this week, but those evacuations have been called off and there are no more evacuation requests at this time, according to the Red Cross.
With files from Jillian Taylor