Benefit Society Oshchima
The Benefit Society Oshchima (est. 1907) derives its name from the Village of Oshchima (appearing as “Oshtima” on the monument), situated in western Macedonia, founded early in the eighteenth century by fugitives fleeing punishment from the Turks. The Society was formed in Toronto in 1907 as a non-political and benevolent organisation to provide financial assistance to its members during their initial period of settlement in Canada. The first villagers to immigrate to Canada were five men, who crossed the ocean in 1904, returning home shortly with their hard-earned savings. This was the migration pattern until 1915, when the first women joined their men. Illiteracy, the language barrier, the uncertainty of employment prospects and overcrowded living conditions led often to despair and ill-health. The Society therefore played a crucial role in coming to terms with these pressing problems. All members in ill-health were given monetary assistance to either return home or obtain medical treatment here. Moreover, financial aid was sent to poor families in the village, and for public works as well. As of 1982, there were roughly 700 persons of Oshchiman descent living in Canada, most of whom were in Toronto. One important service provided by the Society was the purchase of two burial plots — one in Pine Hills Cemetery in Scarborough, the other here in Prospect Cemetery. The graves in these two plots are provided free-of-charge to all members of the Society.