On Friday, February 28th, 2020, our Leadership Winnipeg cohort was provided with exposure to how several organizations are working to afford opportunity and support to immigrants and refugees in our city. Through a guided tour, our group gained experiential insight into how three local non-profits are providing a much need bridge between two worlds for newcomers to Winnipeg.
Immigrants and refugees face myriad obstacles in search of a new life: language and cultural barriers, financial and medical concerns, and the search for gainful employment are amongst the immediate challenges upon arrival. The combination of this cumulative stress and the leaving behind of one’s home, livelihood, and often family would appear to an observer to be all but insurmountable were it not for the selfless, holistic support of the Immigrant Centre Manitoba, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM), and the Holy Names House of Peace.
Founded 72 years ago as a response to a post-World War II immigration influx to Winnipeg, the Immigrant Centre Manitoba is located in the city’s Exchange District. Indistinctive from the neighboring brownstone buildings at the corner of Adelaide and Bannatyne, the Centre’s unremarkable exterior belies the meaningful activity occurring inside its walls. In 2019, some 17,000 clients entered the doors of the Centre. The over 40 in-house personnel providing these services are always prepared. The Language Bank service is staffed with in-house translators capable of greeting newcomers in a familiar voice. The Access English Centre can provide instruction in the local language many are keen to master. Assistance in settlement, employment, finance, and nutrition is at the ready; and external referrals to other agencies are available, when needed. The already 4,000+ clients tallied as of the end of February 2020 attest to the ongoing need for services offered.
Recent statistics from the UN Refugee Agency indicate that nearly 70 million individuals have been forcibly displaced worldwide. New displacement, as a result of conflict or persecution, accounts for one person every two seconds, globally. Those individuals seeking asylum in Manitoba can find assistance just a few blocks away from the Immigrant Centre. At IRCOM, newcomer families can be accommodated in any one of 126 units of flexible, transitional housing for up to three years. The organization provides after-school programming for children and youth, child-care for parents attending courses, asset and capacity building, and opportunities for volunteerism all with an eye to establishing a sense of community.
That same sense of community exists at 211 Edmonton Street in Downtown Winnipeg. During the past 15 years over 150 single women have found sanctuary at the Holy Names House of Peace. Day programming, available 350 days a year, 13 hours a day, provides additional support to the public through education and skills training, mentorship, collaboration, and networking, as well as a safe space for prayer, reflection, and healing.
Our class is incredibly grateful to the Chamber of Commerce for the opportunity to witness these three vibrant organizations that work to welcome and support richness and diversity in Winnipeg’s population.
Post contributed by Troy Woods
as a part of the Leadership Winnipeg program.