World Refugee Day
Refugees are people who have had to flee their homes to avoid political or religious persecution and/or war. Every year on June 20th, the world celebrates the strength and resilience of refugees around the world. Most of us can’t truly understand the trauma and hardship of the refugee experience but it doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to help them. This year on World Refugee Day we had a special Brown Bag Lunch featuring Refugee 613, a coalition of organizations working on refugee integration in Ottawa. We were also joined by Maryam Mahamud, a student at Carleton University and a former refugee. During this informative and moving BBL we learned four key ways in which we could help refugees integrate into Canadian society.
If you’re interested in helping refugees in their integration process you can:
Moving to a new country with a different culture can be an overwhelming experience, especially when you don’t know anyone. One very simple way to help refugees integrate is to simply reach out to them and welcome them to your community. If a refugee family moves down the street, head on over and introduce yourself! Diane Tuyishime of Refugee 613 encourages us all to, “create a space for them [refugees] in whatever you’re doing”. Recreational activities such as sports are an excellent way to include someone in your community. For those interested, OCISO has a program called “Friends of the Family” that matches volunteers to refugee families in order to form social connections. CCI Ottawa also has a similar matching program. Maryam tells us that helping refugees with everyday things such as figuring out the bus system is very important. As you can see, even the little things can go a long way!
Refugees have to learn how to navigate a new system while facing challenges such as language barriers and differences in culture. Those who are job ready can also have a difficult time building a network and effectively communicating their skills. One way to help them in this process is to provide mentorship and connect them to resources that can help in their job search. This does not have to be a major time commitment. An hour of your time each week can make a real difference in someone’s life! World Skills is an organization located right here in Ottawa, that has been helping refugees find employment for over 20 years! You can volunteer with them as a volunteer coach and provide mentorship to refugees.
There are several organizations that offer valuable services to newcomers such as refugees but these organizations need your help to continue the work they do. Take some time out of your day to research local organizations that provide such services and make a donation, whether it be money, furniture or even your time.
Sponsor a Refugee
Many refugees are in need of resettlement and sponsorship is one way to help them in this process. The Government of Canada offers several sponsorship options for those who would like to help a refugee leave a place where they are at risk. You can even team up with your friends and family and sponsor one or more refugees together. Becoming a sponsor is a serious commitment but it can also be very rewarding! To learn more about the sponsorship process in Canada click here.
We hope that you were able to benefit from these resources. If you would like to learn more about what you can do to help refugees, please visit Refugee613’s website.