Taya Rtichsheva, Founder and Executive Director, U Multicultural

Taya Rtichsheva, Founder and Executive Director, U Multicultural

I worked as a television and film producer in Kazakhstan before immigrating to Canada. In 2017, I opened U Multicultural as a not-for-profit ethnocultural community television and radio broadcaster that focuses on diverse communities in Manitoba. But we had to shut down the studio because of the pandemic. Normally we have members from 30 communities, from Inuit to Yazidi, who film programming in different languages. We’re eager to have community members back in the studio as soon as it’s safe to do so. Getting more Manitobans vaccinated will certainly help with that!

At home the pandemic has been challenging as well. Especially for my 7 year-old daughter who has been doing remote learning. I’m glad the opportunity to learn is there, but kids need social interaction and it’s hard for them to sit at a computer all day.

I had my first shot of the vaccine at the RBC Convention Centre as soon as I was eligible. When I went, the line moved very quickly and I was there for less than an hour in total. Thankfully my only side-effect was a sore arm. I’d like to express my appreciation to everyone working and volunteering there, including the nurses and medical professionals. Bravo!

Members of my family were hesitant about vaccination. Then, after I got my first dose, they changed their minds, slowly, without any pressure, and now they are getting vaccinated. Sometimes people just need to sit with a new idea for a while, see that nothing bad happens, and then they feel comfortable to do it themselves. 

I myself wasn’t hesitant about getting vaccinated. Maybe that is partly because medical doctors I know got vaccinated themselves. We trust doctors with our health, and if doctors themselves are taking the COVID vaccine, that says a lot. Their decisions are based on science, not rumours or myths. 

Seeing now how the vaccines are effectively protecting people is also very powerful. Most of the people now in hospital have not been vaccinated. My undergraduate degree was in journalism, and what I learned is to look at scientific data as a credible source. If you don’t trust the media, you can find scientific data in medical journals available online.

The immunization of Manitobans will make it faster and easier to get back to our pre-COVID life. Israel is a great example; people got vaccinated, now there’s a low rate of COVID, and they’re reopening businesses, cultural organizations and community services.

Before COVID, some of us didn’t value ordinary things like meeting with friends and kids’ activities. After COVID, I think we need to remember the importance of our relationships with other people. Don’t obsess over social media and electronic devices. Meet your friends face-to-face more often. Say kind words to your parents. Understand the unique value of every minute of life. Think of the people who lost their lives to COVID. Personally, I have dreams I want to fulfill, like being able to travel around Canada and the world to produce documentaries. In Winnipeg, I really want to enjoy our summer concerts and festivals, like Jazz Fest and Folk Fest.

For me, getting the vaccine means I’m doing my part to reopen the U Multicultural studio, to be able to welcome back our community members – so we can all get back to normal.


More Stories

Tracey Schlamb, Manager of Department of Nursing, CancerCare Manitoba

Tracey Schlamb, Manager of Department of Nursing, CancerCare Manitoba

I’m a nursing manager for CancerCare Manitoba. During the pandemic, it’s been very hard for those working in healthcare to keep up the positive face that we show our patients. The pandemic-related changes are happening quickly, which places a strain on us. Cancer patients still require treatment and care and unfortunately, our patients are coming in sicker than before because they’re too worried about leaving their houses even for their cancer care. 

Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been worried about my family. My husband’s job is in the transport industry so both he and I have been out in public this whole time, along with our children in the school system – we’ve had higher exposure to the virus. We offer support for my mother-in-law, who has severe health conditions, so it’s been hard on us all as we’ve had to isolate to keep her safe. 

When I got my first dose of the vaccine my husband and kids dropped me off at the RBC Convention Centre. They wanted to be there with me when I came out, because it felt like a big climactic moment. I was fortunate and had zero side effects with the first dose of vaccine, while with the second dose, I had a bit of a headache that went away with some Advil. 

I know some of my friends and family have concerns that the vaccines were made in a rush. I use this opportunity to educate them on the science behind the creation of vaccines such as the COVID vaccine or the annual influenza vaccine. I have also received lots of questions about the efficacy of different vaccines, and I have friends who are holding out for a particular vaccine. I have told them that the right vaccine is the first one available to you. My husband was finally eligible to get the AstraZeneca shot, which was a relief to both of us. 

We live in a Winnipeg hotspot area that was prioritized for vaccination, and the day that eligibility for vaccination opened, our neighbourhood Facebook page was filled with messages from people making appointments and my phone filled up with text messages from friends. We’re all happy and relieved when they get the vaccine. We are big hockey fans in our house, and the more vaccines administered, the closer we feel we are to scoring the overtime goal to end the game! 

I hope that in the future, we’ll appreciate our resiliency throughout this troubling time and know that we made it through to the other side, in the world and especially in Manitoba. Hopefully many of us overcame the struggle and found new strength within ourselves.

I’m a nursing manager for CancerCare Manitoba. During the pandemic, it’s been very hard for those working in healthcare to keep up the positive face that we show our patients. The pandemic-related changes are happening quickly, which places a strain on us. Cancer patients still require treatment and care and unfortunately, our patients are coming […]

Sachit Mehra, General Manager, East India Company

Sachit Mehra, General Manager, East India Company

Getting vaccinated is the most important thing everyone can do right now. It’s fast and easy. Vaccination is extremely important for those of us who have underlying medical conditions or are vulnerable members of our community. But most of all, it’s going to help all of us return to normal. Those are the reasons why I chose to be vaccinated.

My family has been in the restaurant business for 50 years. I am the third generation at the helm of The East India Company. We, as a family, chose to close our Winnipeg location on March 16, 2020, earlier than provincial rules. By virtue of owning two restaurant locations in Ottawa, we saw what was coming in Quebec and Ontario and we wanted to be proactive here in Winnipeg. As is the principle within our own family, the health and safety of our guests and employees is always paramount, so we felt closing the restaurant was the safest thing to do.

Since then, takeout and delivery have sustained the restaurant. We’re fortunate to still be in business and that we didn’t have to lay off a single full-time, permanent staff member. Many of our staff have been with us for decades and we see them as more than just employees; they are family.

Normally, I travel to visit my two brothers, who manage our Ottawa locations, once a month. However, I haven’t been able to do that since the onset of the pandemic. It’s hard to express how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones—I haven’t been able to see my nieces, nephews, sisters-in-law and brothers in person for over a year. But I know many of us understand and share this feeling.

In my personal life, I sit on 11 boards. They’ve all gone virtual. I can honestly say that after the pandemic, I’ll be the first person to uninstall Zoom from my computer! I miss the human connection that comes with in-person meetings.

Our Canadian culture is not defined by takeout and watching Netflix. Our culture is defined by our historical sites, and places where we meet and gather—such as special events at the RBC Convention Centre, or at the new Qaumajuq art gallery, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights—or even a restaurant like mine, where we showcase 400-year-old pieces of art. These are places where people can meet, build relationships and grow.

Restaurants are places where people celebrate, make dates, see friends and family. They are places where people go when they reach a crossroads or mark an accomplishment. I miss those moments—the laughter from a table of friends, the excitement of a child opening a gift at a birthday party, the sweetness between a couple celebrating their anniversary—from our restaurant when we were able to share and celebrate special occasions with our visitors.

If you’re a little hesitant about getting vaccinated, by all means, ask questions. Do the research that you need to do. The vast majority of science points to a healthy, safe vaccination process. I believe vaccination will lead us back to normal life, a life where we celebrate together again.

After COVID, I’m looking forward to shaking somebody’s hand again.  It’s so simple but important. And when things get back to normal, I’m looking forward to enjoying a night out with my family at a restaurant, either mine or another—we have great restaurants in Manitoba, and we can’t wait to serve you again in person!

Getting vaccinated is the most important thing everyone can do right now. It’s fast and easy. Vaccination is extremely important for those of us who have underlying medical conditions or are vulnerable members of our community. But most of all, it’s going to help all of us return to normal. Those are the reasons why […]

Maysoun Darweesh, Program Coordinator for Migration and Resettlement, MCC Manitoba

Maysoun Darweesh, Program Coordinator for Migration and Resettlement, MCC Manitoba

I am a program coordinator for migration and resettlement with MCC Manitoba where I work with newcomers and youth in the community. Due to COVID restrictions I meet with community youth outside to talk, following public health guidelines. I can’t do some parts of my job, like home visits. 

I’m a single mom and have two daughters who are in school. During the pandemic, I’ve been so terrified for my daughters, especially the oldest because she has some health issues. With the new variants of the virus having really negative impacts for younger people I’ve become even more concerned. 

Our family includes our cat, Blue. Last year, my co-worker needed to rehome a one-year-old dog, so a new daughter was added to our family, Abby Darweesh—she’s adorable, friendly and bubbly. I joke that my youngest daughter is my favourite. I can’t remember what our life was like without Abby. It was a month before the pandemic, right before all my friends were looking for quarantine dogs. We are so blessed to have her.

I had my first dose of the vaccine at my doctor’s office in Winnipeg. It was AstraZeneca and I didn’t have any side effects except for a sore arm. The needle felt like it does when you get a flu shot. I think even if you feel a little sick from side effects, it’s worth it to get the vaccine. The day I was vaccinated it was the happiest day I’ve had in two years. I left the clinic feeling like I was up and over the clouds, like I owned the whole world!

I’m a Canadian citizen. I was originally sponsored by MCC to come to Canada. In Syria, vaccination was a privilege, but it was an enforced privilege—it wasn’t a choice. I think most of the resettled Syrian community in Manitoba will get immunized, but we need to keep raising awareness. I’ve been telling everybody about my vaccination by phone and email. Hopefully nobody will be left behind.

Everybody should take the vaccine and wear a mask. I understand that we’re all burned out. But the vaccine is something we have to do for our loved ones and our neighbours, and our brothers and sisters.

After everyone in Manitoba is vaccinated, I can’t say everything will go back to the way it was before COVID. But I think it will be less stressful for everybody. We’ll be able to go back to our offices, hold family gatherings and travel. That’s my hope!

I am a program coordinator for migration and resettlement with MCC Manitoba where I work with newcomers and youth in the community. Due to COVID restrictions I meet with community youth outside to talk, following public health guidelines. I can’t do some parts of my job, like home visits.  I’m a single mom and have […]

Additional Resources

Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine from official sources.