Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Heartfelt welcome on cold Prairies

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BRANDON — The next time you stop for a double-double at the Virden Tim Hortons, you may be greeted by one of the new temporary foreign workers recruited from Jamaica and Mexico.

Greg Crisanti runs the coffee franchise and says a dwindling labour pool in the town led to the decision to look elsewhere.

"We always tried to hire local first, but we were having a really difficult time with the labour shortage out in the Virden area," he said. "We were thankful… to be approved for an LMO (labour market opinion), and the workers have helped us out a great deal in the couple of weeks they’ve been here already."

The seven foreign workers at the Virden restaurant arrived in early February. Crisanti said six more workers will arrive in May from the Philippines.

"They have nice accommodations in Virden," Crisanti said.

"They live local and work local."

Crisanti, who is also a director on the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba board, took some of his new workers to check out Brandon’s Royal Manitoba Winter Fair on Tuesday.

Shaneil James, 26, of Kingston, Jamaica, said coming to work in Canada is a great opportunity.

"I believe it will assist me in achieving longterm and short-term goals," he said. "The currency here has much more worth than back in my country."

Going from a tropical 30 C to a frigid -30 C in the middle of a Manitoba winter was a bit of a shock to the system, however, James said he’s happy to be here.

"Every new experience is always exciting," he said. "This is a cold country, but I got a warm welcome."

Lilieth Bowen, 39, from Montego Bay, Jamaica, said she’s been overwhelmed by the kindness of Canadians.

"They’re very warm people and so it’s just a home away from home," she said.

Bowen said she worked at a similar job back home, and so far is enjoying Tim Hortons.

"It’s a faster speed and stuff like that," she said. "I’m enjoying it though, it’s fun. If I get the opportunity in the future to move here, I would move here. I love the people. They look out for us very much."

Efrain Rojas, 22, of Mexico said he wanted to move to Manitoba because he was looking for a different experience and to improve his English.

"The wage is good, the people are good, everything is nice here," he said.

Rojas left a lot of family members back home, but said he tries to call them every day to stay in touch.

Guillermo Cardoso, 38, from Queretaro, Mexico said one of the main reasons he wanted to make the big move to Canada was for a better salary.

Cardoso says in the few weeks he’s been in Manitoba, he’s already experienced a lot of Canadian pastimes.

"I’ve gone to a hockey game, gone to the theatre, all the activities in Virden," he said. "I’m seeing many different things."

The group toured the winter fair, taking in the different events and getting up close to some friendly, heavy horses.

"The fair, it’s exciting," James said.

"It reminds me much of one at home, but there are bigger horses here, we don’t have such huge ones."

— Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2013 a6

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