Wednesday, November 11, 2015

4 Ways You Can Help Syrian Refugees in Vancouver

Today is Remembrance Day, a time to remember those lives lost to war. We wear poppies, we drop some coins in the veterans' jars, we attend ceremonies, but I think we can do more. What better way to honour the dead than to sit down & figure out what you can do to help the victims of war today? Specifically the Syrian refugees that are coming to Canada in the next two months.

The Syrian Refugee Crisis has dominated the headlines in Canada & there's been a lot of debate out there because of the short timeline: bringing 25,000 people to Canada by January 1st is ambitious. But we've done it before: Canada brought in 50,000 Vietnamese refugees in 1979 & 1980, many of them in a very short time frame.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
It's likely that a large number of the Syrian refugees will come here to Vancouver, which is going to require major community support to make it work. That means you, me, our family, neighbours, & friends need to help. 

So what can we do?
The Immigrant Services Society of BC is a great place to start. ISS provides a variety of support services for both immigrants & refugees to help them get settled, find careers & learn all they need to know about starting their new lives in Canada. Through their dedicated staff, volunteers & community partners (like the Mount Pleasant Family Centre Society's Circles of Care & Connection Early Years Refugee program), they provide settlement, education & employment services for over 25,000 clients every year.

ISSofBC is the largest agency of its kind in Western Canada, with targeted programs for refugees, women, children, & youth, plus support services in over 45 languages. Their programs & services are available throughout Metro Vancouver, Squamish & the Okanagan.

Here are four concrete things you can do:

  1. Volunteer with ISS. If you live in the areas mentioned above, & you have at least two hours a week to spare, you can volunteer. Lead a conversation circle, help out with admin work, be a settlement helper for individuals & families, provide crisis counselling if you're trained--there are lots of jobs.
  2. Offer housing. If you have a spare room, a rental suite downstairs, or even a whole house available, add yourself to the list of potential rental housing here. Refugees do receive a (small) housing allowance to cover rent.
  3. Provide employment opportunities. If you own or manage a business, consider hiring a newcomer. 
  4. Give money. You can donate to the ISS refugee sponsorship fund or the ISS Welcome House facility. This amazing facility will combine many of the services & programs, as well as short term housing for newcomers to Canada, all in one place in East Vancouver. (you may have seen the construction site at East 10th Ave & Victoria Drive--that's it!)
If you have any questions about volunteering, offering housing, employment, or donations to ISS, you can contact them via email, phone, or in person at their offices.

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