In the past 20 years, as many as
20,000 Low German Mennonites have
moved to southern Alberta, mostly
from Mexico and Bolivia. George Epp
has met, befriended and helped many
Epp is the Low German Mennonite
liaison officer with the Horizon
School Division and coordinator of
the Mennonite Central Committee’s
Services for Newcomers in Taber,
east of Lethbridge. As the former,
he encourages Mennonite families
to send their children to school. As
the latter, he connects those same
families to health care.
Both jobs have their challenges.
Many Mennonites are opposed to
sending their children to school.
Others have strong objections to
Epp, a Manitoba-raised Mennonite,
can be persuasive. “I just know, when
there’s a measles outbreak and people
say that (immunization) is ‘against
our rules . . . we don’t do that’, I
say: ‘do you really know what that
means?’ ” He is persuasive because
he is passionate. “I think children
have a right to a basic education.
They also have a right to basic and
reasonable health care.”
When Epp started his school
division job, 80 Mennonite children
were in school. Today 1,300
Mennonite children are students.
Epp estimates he’s helped at least a
thousand families find health and
Serving by understanding spiritual beliefs
George Epp helps Mennonite families connect to schools and health care
“If I need assistance with
communications, or an outbreak, or
I need something translated, I go to
George,” says Vivien Suttorp, the lead
medical health officer for the South
Zone of Alberta Health Services.
Epp, she adds, is the person she
asks for advice on being culturally
Cathy Woolfrey, the manager
of population health promotion
services in AHS’s South Zone says
Epp “is a tireless advocate for the
Low German Mennonite community
in southern Alberta and beyond.
His efforts cover the full range of
the social determinants of health,
including education, housing,
social supports, access to care, and
physical environments. He supports
individuals and families to achieve
— Jeff Collins
Epp is an tireless advocate for the Low German Mennonite community, helping families access education,
health care, housing and more.