Many Bow Valley residents have expressed an interest in helping or sponsoring Syrian refugees. The Bow Valley Immigration Partnership (BVIP) is a collaborative community initiative dedicated to improving immigrant integration.The partner organizations that make up BVIP are gathering information about refugee arrivals and working together to ready the local and regional support we anticipate will be needed.
Here is what we know so far:
Government sponsored refugees will be arriving in Alberta in Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge. These cities have in place free specialized services that Syrian refugees may need, such as settlement and supportive counselling that can be accessed in multiple languages, beginner English language and/or literacy courses, access to interpreters, family housing, and extensive public transportation. Currently, these specialized services are not available or have very limited availability in the Bow Valley. These service gaps will need to be filled by Calgary or local service providers for any refugees arriving in the Bow Valley. BVIP and our regional partners are working together to look at gaps in services and possible solutions.
Locally, a group of citizens with support from the Ralph Connor Memorial United Church and Mountain Munchkin Daycare is preparing to privately sponsor 8 Syrian refugees. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can connect with the group at: http://bowvalleysyria.ca/
Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) is leading the Syrian refugee resettlement effort in southern Alberta. CCIS is a non-profit with over 34 years of experience in resettlement, staff who speak a combined 60 languages, and an 8 year partnership with Banff & Canmore municipalities. Support to the southern Alberta effort can be made through CCIS at:https://www.ccisab.ca/refugees/syrian. CCIS’ resettlement efforts are focused in cities. However, CCIS can provide support for sponsors in smaller communities, including provision of initial resettlement services in Calgary and matching of local volunteers with a refugee family suitable for and interested in resettling in the destination community.
If any additional refugees are arriving in the area, it is very important that local service providers have as much time to plan for their arrival as possible and that local supports be coordinated. Therefore anyone considering sponsoring refugees privately should contact BVIP.
There are also many ways locals can help other immigrants and newcomers in our community. More than 20% of our Bow Valley permanent population was born abroad and our neighbours come from over 50 countries. Here are some ways to connect with, help, and learn more about foreign-born locals:
- Tutor an English language learner with Bow Valley Literacy
- Become a mentor for the Workplace Commmunication for Rural Immigrants program
- Volunteer with Settlement Services in the Bow Valley or the Town of Banff's Get Outafter school programs
- Donate or volunteer with one of the organizations listed in the Bow Valley Affordability Guide
- Take the time to get to know a neighbour, co-worker, or acquaintance from another country. Here are some questions to help break the ice. We asked immigrants and newcomers what long term residents can do to be welcoming; one of the top tips was to extend a social invitation to someone new to the community.
- Help challenge stereotypes and promote understanding between different cultures by telling us about some of the interesting locals you know. Use the hashtag #meetthelocals or recommend somebody who should be featured atwww.meetthelocals.ca
To learn more about the Government of Canada’s plan to resettle Syrian refugees, please visit: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/