West Kelowna will be more welcoming to the world with the addition of a part-time extension of immigrant services through Kelowna Community Resources.
Immigrant services manager Elizabeth MacLeod said the agency does provide services for immigrants already from the downtown Kelowna office on Dolphin Avenue.
Services there range from helping people find a job to finding a doctor or English-as-a-second-language classes.
A host program links local families with newcomer families and MacLeod said the agency also runs a similar “buddy” program for children.
The agency is renting a room in the West Kelowna Visitor’s Centre and plans to have services available every Tuesday morning. If there is enough interest, the program could be expanded in hours.
MacLeod said with West Kelowna growing, the organizaiton thought it was important to have an office in the area. She said when newcomers arrive, sometimes they don’t have a vehicle and getting into Kelowna can be a challenge.
“Getting integrated into a new area and culture can be a daunting task. Upon arriving, immigrants can face challenges with getting a driver’s license or understanding how to navigate our public transit (system).”
Peachland resident Maria Bandol, originally from Romania, said new arrivals can be helped tremendously by having people nearby who understand the immigration process.
From services such as translation, to having a space for people to mingle, she noted having someone to turn to who is familiar with the process can greatly aid newcomers.
And, having help can ease the adjustment to an unfamiliar place.
Bandol said she experienced that firsthand, when her family emigrated from the heat of Rome, Italy and arrived during a Saskatchewan winter in Regina.
In her case, Italy was an easier destination to reach at first when Bandol’s family left Romania folowing the 1989 revolution and a transition to democracy.