We have provided a $12,470 Emergency Community Support Fund grant to the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC) to support the employment of two first language COVID-19 Community Navigators (CN) for three months (January-March 2021). The new CNs will be responsible for reaching out to isolated newcomer mothers to help them navigate Canadian systems and local communities. This outreach extends to helping with social services and school systems, virtually connecting to the community for resources and support, and providing referrals, especially during COVID-19.
(Image found on https://issbc.org/)
ISSofBC is one of the largest and oldest not-for-profit/multicultural immigrant-serving agencies in BC, serving over 20,000 immigrants and refugees annually. ISSofBC’s mission is “Helping immigrants build a future in Canada.” ISSofBC provides services for newcomers in over 45 languages including settlement and employment supports, language classes, community connections & targeted programs to children/youth/women/older adults. Throughout Metro Vancouver/Squamish/ Kamloops/Oliver, the organization has 16 sites, 419 staff, and 750 active volunteers.
Before COVID-19, many newcomer mothers were unfamiliar with Canadian systems/local communities and did not have proper support in Canada. The pandemic magnified the challenges faced by newcomer mothers and their families as many settlements and social supports were accessible only virtually. This increases the mothers’ isolation as many do not have access to technology nor have digital literacy skills. Even as in-person support has slowly been made available, mothers are concerned about taking public transit with their young children. Additionally, many service providers have to limit the number of clients they see due to social distancing regulations. Isolated newcomer families languished during COVID-19 without receiving targeted support. Many are still dealing with a variety of additional issues including food security, concerns about health and safety, job loss, and changes in children’s routine (especially school aged children).
“The employment of two first language COVID-19 CNs will help us reach out in a concerted effort to help stabilize and support additional newcomer mothers with our services. CNs are instrumental in supporting refugee mothers to build their confidence, knowledge, and skills to access support and resources independently,” said Chris Friesen, Director of Settlement Services for ISSofBC. “As we continue to face COVID-19 in BC, we are incredibly grateful to receive this grant to support the recruitment of CNs. Without the help of our CNs, our newcomer families, especially mothers, would fall behind and become more vulnerable.”
While this service was started by the Emergency Community Support Fund, Chris emphasised the need for CNs to continue to support women post COVID. Funding is always needed to support immigrant women in being able to have translation/access to tools so that they are able to understand their new communities. ISSofBC also plans to continue providing services online post-COVID as it has developed so much and is useful to many women.
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.
Christine Buttkus, Executive Director of SurreyCares Community Foundation, explained, "the COVID-19 crisis has impacted newcomer mothers and their families greatly. The need for additional support from CNs is critical for them to get through this pandemic while simultaneously settling into a new country. We are grateful to be able to support such an outstanding initiative that will make a big impact in our community.”
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.
Visit the ISSofBC’s website to learn more about its work: https://issbc.org/