We have supplied a $32,883 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to Progressive Intercultural Community Services Society (PICS). This funding is being used to support their Harmony House, a long-term Second Stage Transition House for immigrant women and children fleeing domestic violence. This funding will support the PICS Society by addressing the impact of social isolation, exacerbated by the pandemic, for immigrant women fleeing domestic violence. To decrease social isolation with residents at Harmony House, this funding will be used towards hiring two additional staff, delivering in-house wellbeing programs and delivering wellbeing tools/supplies.
(Left to Right) Neena Randhawa, Christine Buttkus, Linda Annis and Manpreet Gill.
Harmony House is unique in that it provides an opportunity for women and children to heal in a culturally sensitive, linguistically and accessible environment. At Harmony House, residents receive an array of services, guidance, and support, delivered in their own language and culture, that help them integrate back into society safely and at their own pace. This is accomplished through life skills training, assistance seeking employment, Canadian cultural training, budget training, English classes, etc. Aside from these services, residents receive emotional support, guidance, and advocacy.
COVID-19 has caused a surge in domestic violence, and in Surrey, an increase in the number of immigrant women needing to flee dangerous situations. Immigrant women who flee a violent or entrapment situation at home do so against all cultural norms. It’s a frightening, difficult, and stressful time.
“These women are discouraged to leave and receive little support from their community – their choice is to either run away from everything they know or stay and continue to be abused. Most leave because they fear for their safety and that of their children. Once they leave, these women end up feeling alone and isolated because they have lost their support networks,” explained Manpreet Gill, the Assistant Program Coordinator at PICS Society. “Now this already insurmountable social isolation has been exacerbated by the mandated isolation policies due to the pandemic.”
The mental wellbeing of these women is at risk and as COVID-19 continues, that risk increases. Therefore, this funding will be used to decrease social isolation with all residents at Harmony House by focusing on mental and social well being. Due to COVID-19, many in-person community resources and social support for women fleeing violence have stopped or become limited. Women living in Harmony House now have limited access to the services they need including training, counselling and other support programs. Additionally, due to the COVID-19 restrictions the women are advised to stay home, which is adding to their feelings of social isolation. PICS has also experienced an increase in calls from women in need of their services during this crisis. However, the organization has had to limit the number of stays and sessions for women in need of support.
“By using the funds provided by SurreyCares we were able to hire staff who can deliver outreach programs. So at least, no matter who calls we can support them over the phone,” says Neena Randhawa, Program Coordinator for Harmony House at PICS. “By building that relationship, we can reduce some of the stress faced by the women. These issues are affecting these women’s children and families; being an immigrant woman is very hard, and becoming increasingly harder during the pandemic.”
Nenna Randhawa (left), Manpreet Gill (right)
SurreyCares’ contribution of funding for this project is critical in supporting immigrant women who are fleeing violence in Surrey. The addition of two new culturally aware support workers will be hired to assist women with accessing social connections, coordinating in-house projects, and providing emotional support. As many supports have been temporarily suspended, this funding will also go towards introducing new support services at Harmony House including yoga, English classes, counselling, employment workshops, Canadian culture classes, computer classes. Lastly, wellbeing tools and supplies will be able to be purchased such as yoga matts, health products, bus basses, laptops for computer classes, etc.
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.
“I am grateful that SurreyCares was able to contribute to this project in supporting the vulnerable population at Harmony House, especially during these mentally trying times of self isolation during the pandemic,” said Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation. “This outstanding initiative will make a big impact for the mental health of immigrant women fleeing violence, which is an already incredibly lonely and frightening time.”
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 PICS Society and Harmony House, visit them here: https://pics.bc.ca/