The day began at The Immigrant Centre where we were provided a lively presentation by the Executive Director, Jorge Fernandez. Jorge proudly described the programs that are provided to Permanent Residents, Temporary Residents and Canadian Citizens.
The centre employs 40 individuals from 22 different countries speaking 44 languages. There are also 60 volunteers who help facilitate programs. Jorge noted that the programing provided is individualized. As people enter the centre, their needs are assessed, and the appropriate program determined. Programs fall under the following categories:
- First Steps – Newcomer assessments and Settlement services
- Learning English – Newcomers practice their English skills
- Other Services – Translation and interpretation services, nutrition services, computer skills
The assistance provided is valued which is evident by the donations of gifts and of time, as many benefactors are now the centre’s volunteers.
The second location was Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc. (MIIC) otherwise known as “Welcome House”. MIIC is Manitoba’s largest refugee settlement agency. MIIC provides a variety of services to Refugees including providing temporary accommodation for newly arrived government assisted refugees.
Felicien Rubayita, of Settlement Services, provided a presentation describing the differences between an Immigrant and a Refugee. He contrasted the groups on a variety of categories including, country of destination, the ability to return home, language, financial resources and hope for the future. He brought the experience of a refugee to life by telling his story of having fled Rwanda in the 1990s.
He also spoke of the 4 Steps of Cultural Adoption which can take up to 5 years to go through.
- Honeymoon – everything is new and exciting;
- Challenge and Crisis – differences in language, values lead to feeling of inadequacy, and frustration;
- Recovery –language and culture are embraced;
- Adjustment – accepts the new country and what it has to offer.
The third organization was the House of Peace. This organization provides a safe and loving home for 18 newcomer women for up to 2 years. Maria Battiglia, the Development Officer, highlighted the programs provided at the House of Peace including:
- Counselling – Step 5, of 12 Step programs;
- Peace of Mind Group – domestic violence support groups;
- Education – Interfaith, Intercultural workshops;
- Self Help Groups – Cocaine Anonymous & Al-Anon;
- A sacred place for prayer and reflection
One of the residents told her personal journey to Canada. She noted that “Life is hard. Life is a risk.” She spoke of leaving her family, fleeing her country only to be captured, held for ransom, being released and making her way to Winnipeg. And while she notes life is still hard and a risk, she knows she is safe – she is Canadian.
I found the day to be very inspiring. I am proud to be a member of a community that embraces our Newcomers and celebrates diversity.