PEI

P.E.I. newcomers association video highlights new Islanders contributions during COVID-19

The P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada has produced and released a new video highlighting the contributions of newcomers when COVID-19 first hit the province back in March.

'All we wanted to do is tell newcomers we saw what they were doing and we are so thankful'

Melanie Bailey is the co-ordinator of the P.E.I. Immigration Partnership Program. She says she hopes people who watch the new video see how strong the P.E.I. community is and how much newcomers contribute. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Newcomers to the province have been busy helping the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic and an Island association has decided to document it.

The P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada released a new video highlighting the contributions of newcomers when COVID-19 first hit the province.

The video was created by the P.E.I. Immigration Partnership Program, which is part of the association.

"A few weeks into COVID, I started to notice deliveries were happening in our neighbourhood and it was all newcomers," said Melanie Bailey, program co-ordinator.

Bailey said she thought it was inspiring and she started to hear more stories.

"Early on we began to track stories related to newcomers supporting P.E.I," she said.

Battling fear

Newcomers who are truck drivers, health-care professionals and those in manufacturing jobs are featured in the video along with those who volunteered to do things such as deliver groceries to those in isolation.

The significance of the Chinese community cannot be understated. They identified isolation before Canada made it a priority.— Melanie Bailey, P.E.I. Immigration Partnership Program

Bailey said the organization spoke with Canadian and newcomer health-care workers and they talked about how scary it is to work in the field during a pandemic.

"Most people expressed fear ... and yet they went to work. People were calling them COVID heroes and they didn't want to be called heroes because of the fear," she said. "But they are. They braved that fear."

She said some newcomers were recommending isolation before public officials.

"The significance of the Chinese community cannot be understated. They identified isolation before Canada made it a priority. They were helping their community isolate upon international travel early on," she said, adding that same community supplied masks to various people across the Island.

'Touching their hearts'

Bailey said she has heard from people who were featured in the video and even received a letter of thanks from the Island's Vietnamese community.

I am very lucky to be involved in this meaningful project.— HK, photographer

"As we went through the process and showed them the work it was touching their hearts, and I just hope that they can watch that video and know how much we care and how much we notice what they did," she said.

"That's all we wanted to do is tell newcomers we saw what they were doing and we are so thankful for what they did for P.E.I."

Bailey said the video also thanks government officials, like Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, for their work through the pandemic.

P.E.I. is a small Island, but it is a strong Island.— HK, photographer

In the early days of COVID-19, seeking out these stories helped Bailey get through that difficult time many people were struggling with, she said.

"It did help to look and see what the helpers were doing and what I had hoped to do is show our love for newcomers, to show the love they have for P.E.I.," she said.

'Positive side'

Bailey even asked a newcomer photographer to document some of the stories.

HK is originally from China but he came to P.E.I. in 2016 with his family. Now he runs a photography business in downtown Charlottetown called APEI Photography.

He said when he was first asked to take photos for the project he was worried about contracting COVID-19  — but he masked up and physically distanced once he learned what the project was all about.

"I felt that I should be as brave as those people," he said. "At least as a photographer, I think I have the responsibility to show the fact of the positive side to the community."

HK is a photographer and newcomer to Canada. He captured photos of newcomers to contribute to the video put out by the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada. (APEI Photo Studio)

HK said he felt "proud" to do be able to document some of the things newcomers were doing.

"Helping each other, this is the only way to help us pass the pandemic."

One of the most moving things he photographed was at Silver Streams, when the restaurant donated food to the soup kitchen in Charlottetown, HK said.

"I am very lucky to be involved in this meaningful project and I would like to say P.E.I. is a small Island, but it is a strong Island," he said.

"No matter if you are an Islander or a newcomer all of us contribute to the beautiful Island."

Strong P.E.I. community

Bailey said she hopes people who watch the video understand how much newcomers often sacrifice to come to Canada. Some give up jobs and have to leave their families for a period of time.

"It's not only that they are making a new life," Bailey said.

"They actually love being here and I hope that we see all people belong here, that there is a real sense of belonging in purpose in both new Islanders and Islanders and how we have come together to take care of P.E.I."

Bailey said she hopes people watch the video and see how strong the P.E.I. community is and how much newcomers contribute.

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