Help to welcome refugees to Kelowna

Local education and community organizations rally together to help immigrant newcomers adjust to living in Canada.

  • Dec. 21, 2015 7:00 a.m.

It is anticipated that 20 Syrian families will arrive at the Kelowna airport over the next four months. Their needs will reflect both the unique settlement issues of newcomers and the typical concerns of any family moving to another country taking few material possessions with them.

Kelowna Community Resources (KCR) in partnership with School District 23 and Ki-Low-Na Friendship Centre (English as a second language provider) have delivered settlement services throughout the Central Okanagan for more than  13 years.

Settlement services are currently offered in over 20 languages with many more available through contracted translators.

“Our expertise and collaborative approach in Immigrant Services allows us to provide leadership that is coordinating efforts to maximize impact for the benefit of all in our community,” said Ellen Boelcke, KCR executive director.

UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with KCR, have created a mapping website (www.okrefugee.geolive.ca/) that provides people who want to donate with the ability to share information about household items, employment opportunities, services, housing, and volunteering that might be used by incoming Syrian refugees.

Preparing the community to be inclusive, welcoming and vibrant so that immigrants can reach their potential, racism is eliminated, and cultural diversity is valued and celebrated is the goal of committed stakeholders involved in the Central Okanagan Local Immigration Partnership, facilitated by KCR.

“The families suffering because of war are coming here and we want to extend open arms and helping hands to demonstrate the Canadian heart and spirit that has become famous worldwide,” said Rawle James, partnership coordinator.

Across Canada, the United Way is  stepping up to support the settlement of refugees and ensure they are welcomed and able to adapt and thrive in our communities. Support for community-based immigrant and refugee settlement services is an integral component of their Healthy People, Strong Communities focus area.

Locally, the United Way Central and South Okanagan/Similkameen has launched a “United for Refugees” campaign that will collect monetary donations for a fund earmarked for programs supporting the refugees with housing, childcare, education, translation, counselling, transportation and immigrant services.

“Supporting our community is what we do and these new community members need our assistance and our compassion,” said Shelley Gilmore, executive director of United Way CSO.  “Integrating into a new country and a new community presents many challenges that are innate to the refugee and immigration process.

“Partnering with these many other organizations to assist both the families moving here and the families and systems that will now support them is key to our community’s overall success and health.”

To donate to United for Refugees, visit: www.unitedwaycso.com/refugees. United Way will match funds up to $5,000 with hopes of raising a total of $10,000 for the cause.

A summary of information about how to become involved is available on the Central Okanagan Refugee Community Resources section of the KCR website. (kcr.ca/immigrant-services/okanagan-refugee-community-resources/)

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