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 up 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 plan to have services available every Tuesday morning. If there is a lot of 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 pointed out that when newcomers arrive, sometimes they don’t possess a vehicle and getting into Kelowna can be challenging.
“Getting integrated into a new area and culture can be a daunting task, and 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 like translation to having a space for people to mingle, she noted having someone to turn to who is familiar with the immigration process can greatly aid newcomers.
And, having help can ease the adjustment to an unfamiliar place.
Bandol said she experienced this firsthand, when her family emigrated from the heat of Rome, Italy to arrive during a Saskatchewan winter in Regina. In her case, Italy was an easier destination to reach at first when Bandol’s family left Romania after the 1989 revolution and a transition to democracy.