Working with Low German Mennonites in Canada
(MCC Photo/Nina Linton)

At a program for Low German Mennonites in Chatham, Ontario, early literacy specialist Carrie Myers reads to young Sahra Fehr while her mother Katharina and other participants, Maria Krahn (left) and Tina Klassen (right) watch.

On October 25, service providers who work with Low German Mennonites came together at “Continuing Conversations”, an event put on by MCC’s LGM program together with its domestic violence prevention program, Voices for Non-Violence.

Over 70 representatives of numerous organizations gathered at this event, a follow-up to “Beginning Conversations”, Tina Fehr Kehler’s March 2013 presentation to the community on LGM culture, religion and migration. Members of the education field, health care services, children’s and family services, among others gathered at the Quality Inn in Winkler to hear Mary Friesen speak and to network with each other on how to better serve Low German speaking Mennonites.

Mary—formerly the coordinator of MCC Canada’s LGM services in Mexico—has years of experience working with Low German Mennonites and brought insight into building bridges with the members of this community. She shared examples of programs that have successfully made these connections, like staff at MCC Alberta’s Tabor office, who approached individuals in the community to discern what they wanted in a school, helping them feel more comfortable sending their children there. She also told of a health authority in Kansas who enlisted young women from a Low German background who had grown up in the USA to help farm labour families register for health insurance.

Mary encouraged attendees to form an inter-agency group that would continue to explore issues in the community and how best to address them. She also encouraged a similar gathering of members of the Low German community themselves to discuss needs and solutions from their perspective.

Participants in the event commented on how much they appreciated the speaker as well as the chance to network with other service providers.