Giving back, one roll at a time.

Former refugees give back

Every year for the past 52 years, the New Hamburg Fairgrounds has hosted thousands of people eager for delicious food, beautiful textile art, auctions, and fun activities for families.

The New Hamburg Relief Sale is the largest of a number of relief sales that take place across Ontario every year. Since its inception 52 years ago, the New Hamburg sale alone has raised over $14 million for the relief, development, and peace work of Mennonite Central Committee both domestically and internationally.

The sale features a host of food vendors with everything prepared and sold by volunteers. There are well-known classics like sausage-on-a-bun, fruit pies, and home-made icecream, along with ethnic Mennonite delicacies like Vereneki (Russian), pupusas (Hispanic), and the popular egg/spring rolls (South-East Asian).

Ly Vang, a member of First Hmong Mennonite Church, was part of the group that first began selling spring rolls in 1985. It took a number of years before “people finally realized it was good!” she recalls with a laugh, but is grateful for their growing popularity over the last twenty years. She estimates that their spring rolls raise over $10,000 for MCC every year over the two-day event.

Vang and many at First Hmong Mennonite Church have a profound reason for devoting so much time, energy, and money to raise money for MCC: they came to Canada as refugees, sponsored by Steinmann Mennonite Church. Behind the scenes, MCC helped to facilitate these and many other private sponsorships.

Vang loves both selling and buying at the relief sales, “The Hmong people had a tough life as refugees, so we feel good spending money [at the relief sale] because that money will help other people who are in need, in trouble, like we used to be.”

Som Phanpha of Grace Lao Mennonite Church has a similar story. He and his family along with many others that now make up the congregation of Grace Lao were sponsored by St. Jacobs Mennonite Church in the 1980s. One Sunday they heard about the relief sale and the relief, development, and peace work of MCC. “We said, ‘why don’t we help because we were one of those people before’”.

This year, members of Grace Lao and First Hmong will make and sell over 14,000 egg and spring rolls, each hand-made with love and gratitude, says Vang.

“There’s a connection of the heart… how we had been through hardship and now we’ve been blessed with a new life.  We have the opportunity to help those who are less fortunate like we once were.”

The New Hamburg Relief Sale is held at the Fairgrounds in New Hamburg, off highway 8, Friday May 26th (from 5pm) and Saturday May 27th (7am- afternoon). Visit for more details.