We have provided a $14,470 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to Options Community Services Society for their Township of Langley Outreach for Vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers Project. This project is to support vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) as they manage the impacts of COVID-19 by disseminating information on rights and responsibilities and resources through community and volunteer outreach and engagement.
Left to right: Linda Annis (SurreyCares), Iris Solorzano (Options), Cuauhdemoc Baca (Options), Christine Mohr (Options)
Temporary Foreign Workers have multiple barriers, are isolated and lack timely support and information. Many are fearful and anxious about COVID-19 and lack community connections during this time. The pandemic has greatly exaggerated the pre-existing gap and difficulties of pertinent information being shared with vulnerable TFWs. Social and physical distancing, office closures and the inability for TFWs to access information and services have created an urgent need for more timely comprehension of information and resources.
“We have been receiving calls from workers in dire need of mental health support. Many of the recent arrivals of Temporary Foreign Workers are young males who are away from their families for the first time,” explained Iris Solorzano, Program Manager at Options Community Services Society. “The mandatory quarantine of two weeks was emotionally challenging for many, followed by the learning curve post quarantine. We experienced a high volume of TFWs reaching out for mental health support, health information, resources or just the need to connect with someone in their own language at all hours of the day and night.”
To provide the necessary support, Options will use this funding to increase the number of hours of their current staff, from part-time with 17 hours per week to 35 hours per week. With the additional 18 hours, Options and their staff will be able to provide the Mental Health and COVID-19 related information and resources demanded from TFWs. The additional hours will enable Options to provide ongoing support and to increase their availability to more vulnerable clients.
The project will also ensure that vulnerable Temporary Foreign Workers in the Township of Langley are supported to obtain current health and safety guidelines to establish safe workplaces and housing/residencies. This includes providing TFW’s with someone who can translate the constantly changing restrictions. Healthy TFWs will ensure their employers will have continuity of essential services/food production.
An example of when this program was used widely was in December when there was an outbreak at one of the farms Options provides services for. There were approximately fifty cases, which meant the information the TFW’s needed to know in order to properly quarantine had to be provided as quickly as possible. The approachability Options provided during this situation created an important connection between the organization and TFW’s.
Options has also partnered with Fraser Health Authority (FHA) to provide extra support and guidance for Temporary Foreign Workers in accessing COVID-19 resources or services. FHA staff provide information about cost-effective clinical prevention services and delivery of some services. This includes screenings and vaccinations in the communities, (wherever possible), culturally appropriate and language-specific Health Promotion and Education information, linking TFWs to timely and culturally appropriate health and upstream prevention services in the community and Fraser Health (including Health System Navigation). Photo:
Viren Sharma (FHA)
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.
“Mental health supports must be remembered during this pandemic, and that includes services for the Temporary Foreign Workers in our community,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation. “There are already barriers to receiving adequate resources for Temporary Foreign Workers, and with these unprecedented times, there is a substantial need for additional support. Therefore, we are incredibly glad to be able to grant Options the funding needed to provide accessible mental health resources for Temporary Foreign Workers.”
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 Options Community Services, visit https://www.options.bc.ca/.