Portage la Prairie MLA Jeff Bereza held a lunch Tuesday to welcome newcomers from the Philippines. Four new residents are preparing to work in the healthcare sector in town, just in time for the new hospital. The MLA says helping families come to our city is exactly why he became an MLA.

"Having nurses and nurse aides that have come from the Philippines to settle here to help with our vulnerable people that are in the hospital in the care homes, that's what it's all about," says Bereza. "It started a little while ago when we were in government and we asked the NDP how is this program going? And they said it was a flop. It was a failure. And then to catch up with these people and meet up with them and hear them say, 'No, I'm here because of that,' is wonderful."

He notes our new residents tried three times to come to Canada, but the recruitment program provided the means for them to become part of our society. Bereza explains they're able to further their own community, as well.

"We hope that we can welcome more and more of these people again," continues Bereza. "It's helping them come to, what I believe is, the best country in the world: Canada. But the other thing, too, is it's helping us in a bind, because we have such a bind with finding healthcare people. So, these people are filling that void, especially with the new hospital coming, as well."

At the lunch, Mayor Sharilyn Knox and Councillor Ryan Espey were present to meet them, as well as representative from the RM of Portage la Prairie, Kyle Hamilton, reps from Portage Learning and Literacy Centre, Portage Community Revitalization Corporation, and Settlement Services. Bereza invited the Health Critic Kathleen Cook for the province, and a great friend of our newcomers was former Minister of Labour and Immigration Jon Reyes. 

Reyes says it's almost been a year since their recruit mission and the day's events brought a lot of joy to his heart.

"We needed healthcare workers," says Reyes. "We need more of them, and they're coming because of the work that was done. And I'm hoping that they'll continue to come here because of the demand that's needed. It's very competitive, too, compared to other provinces. So, I want to thank the community of Portage la Prairie for welcoming the individuals that are settling here, and the local organizations as well as the local elected officials, from the mayor and the local MLA for welcoming them here, and truly showing them what friendly Manitoba is all about."

PortageOnline caught up with the newcomers, themselves. Stay posted for a future story.