We have presented a $10,300 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to Edo Friends of BC for their Community Outreach Program. This program provides connection and stability to low-income, new immigrant, and refugee families in the Surrey area by offering food/hygiene products, family/mental health counselling, and technology support.
Edo Friends of BC is a non-profit charity organization dedicated to a better quality of life for all Canadians. The organization was formed by a group of immigrants from the Edo region in Southern Nigeria, hence the name Edo Friends of BC. One of their main objectives is to promote positive African and Canadian intercultural relationships to all Canadians. The organization has established various programs to achieve these objectives. These are the Community Outreach program, Settlement and Integration Services programs, Youth Programs, Interpretation and Translation Services, Computer Training Services, Children Programs, and Employment Services. Edo Friends of BC also provides education, and other support services for immigrants and refugees in need.
Joe Ehizode, President, Edo Friends of BC, said, “Edo Friends of BC runs smoothly thanks to all of the people who work so hard within the organization. As someone familiar with the organization’s day-to-day operations, I can tell you that the departments work together to ensure that we abide by the programs’ policies. We hope to stay connected with all members of our community to serve them better.”
Before COVID-19, Edo Friends of BC operations included helping new immigrants and refugees settle into Canada by locating suitable accommodations and providing services that they need to adapt to their new environment. Employment has been one of their most crucial fields to tackle as most new immigrants have trouble locating work for months after moving to Canada.
“We help new immigrants and refugees in finding essential services and teach them how to utilize them,” said Osakue Ukponrefe, Program Coordinator, Edo Friends of BC. “Even services, such as public transportation, work very differently than what the newcomers were familiar with in their previous nations. That is why it takes some time and proper guidance for them to get used to the services. This difference is most clearly seen in the employment field as people are used to having connections to find work rather than going through an application process.”
During the pandemic, families have to isolate themselves to take precautions against COVID. Many people have lost their jobs during this time, which has had a devastating impact on many of Edo’s clients. Families also had limited tools that would help them access important information online during these trying times. At one point, children were expected to attend school online and the severe shortage of tech equipment for these families was a significant barrier. Once the need became apparent, Edo Friends of BC started getting calls from the families inquiring about computers and other accessories.
“In the outreach program, we were able to put our boots to the ground. We got a chance to visit families and elderly in our community who have been marginalized and suffering amidst the pandemic,” stated Ambrose Okundaye, Outreach Program Chair, Edo Friends of BC. “Thanks to the funds provided to us by SurreyCares and the Government of Canada, we were able to ensure that these families did not fall through the cracks. I remember getting distress calls from families about not having enough food and people with special needs having issues due to the pandemic. We were able to connect with these people and assist them.”
People who have dietary restrictions and elders who are used to consuming food from their cultures could not afford these foods anymore due to the pandemic. This funding received by Edo Friends of BC was also able to assist community members in connecting with stores and making other arrangements so that culturally appropriate food was accessible. The project also provided hygiene products and PPE to families who did not have access to it. These resources have helped many families be able to go out and work. Additionally, Edo connected families with other external programs that provide computer services. Children were then able to enrol in virtual programs.
This grant is made possible through the Government of Canada’s $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund, which saw over $900,000 allocated to SurreyCares in its first round and now over $575,000 in the second round.
“Food security, counselling, and other services are vital supports for low-income new immigrant families. Amidst COVID-19, these services are needed more than ever as people struggle to find work or receive in-person assistance,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation. “SurreyCares is advocating for additional funding as the need for support of new immigrant and refugee families is high.”
Individuals and businesses who wish to support Surrey charities are asked to give to the Surrey Community Relief Fund. In partnership with the Surrey Now-Leader, Surrey Board of Trade, and The Saheli Foundation, the goal is to raise $500,000 to support the most vulnerable populations in Surrey.
To learn more about Edo Friends of BC, visit their website at https://www.edofriends.ca/.