A constant challenge throughout the first thirteen months of Syrian newcomer settlement has been finding enough translators to bridge the gap between refugees and service providers. WHTO flipped this around and asked “how can you match Syrian newcomers with Arab speaking service providers?”
Within our network of partners was iamsick.ca, a digital start-up that helps Canadians access healthcare. One of their service offerings helps Canadians find healthcare practitioners who speak their mother tongue. By encouraging and supporting iamsick.ca to tailor their programming to support Syrian refugees, WHTO helped tackle the language/service barrier and helped a Canadian company build capacity and brand by doing social good. This success story has been picked up by multiple media outlets.
Public interest in Syrian refugees created a uniquely Canadian problem – tons of people wanting to help without knowing where help was needed, or what skill sets were in greatest demand. With the goal of making the best use of what already exists, WHTO supported Volunteer Toronto to create and promote a Syrian refugee-specific volunteer opportunity directory. This helped engaged citizens in Toronto connect with the opportunities they were looking for while also helping settlement agencies and groups find the volunteers they needed to maximize their own impact.
Information Sessions for Engaged Citizens
While the support of and engagement in the settlement process by everyday Canadians has been incredible, it has also been messy. In partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation, WHTO provided regular information sessions that gave engaged citizens space to discuss the issues, share what has and hasn’t been working and separate fact from fiction around how the settlement process works. These conversations have led to new partnerships and resource-sharing opportunities that have connected and empowered civic settlement groups.
Syrian Salad Club
Successful settlement involves an equitable exchange; both new citizens and the existing ones give something and gain something through the new relationship, creating shared value. In partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation and Rola Musafa, a Syrian newcomer, WHTO hosted Syrian Salad Club at CSI’s Regent Park location. Rola was given control of the budget and CSI: Regent Park’s animation team to buy and prepare Syrian food, play Syrian music and share a bit about Syrian culture with CSI members.
Syrian Salad Club not only gave Rola an opportunity to give something back to her new community and celebrate her own heritage, it also gave CSI members a chance to put a human face on Syrian refugees and understand Syria as more than just a conflict zone.
Month 13 Panel Discussion
There are some tough, uncomfortable challenges facing Syrian newcomers approaching Month 13 that reflect on structural challenges of Canada’s settlement system. Our panel chat surfaced some of these problems and other, emerging ones through presentations and a Q&A featuring a private sponsor, a settlement volunteer and a refugee support grassroots group. Our event was covered and broadcast nationally by the CBC.
Stories of Settlement
In the first wave of Canadian engagement with refugee settlement, the overarching story was framed as “welcome refugees”, creating a popular image of war-ravaged victims being saved by empathetic, engaged Canadians. WHTO felt strongly that it was important to disrupt this story and promote the people behind the crisis and highlight the value they brought to Canada.
The Stories of Settlement photo display presented 3/6 Syrian newcomers as professionals making a new life in the place where they had found refugee, reframing the refugee story for Canadians. This display has been featured at XX events, including the Canadian Arab Institute Awards Gala 2016 and Toronto’s YIMBY festival; it have been viewed by over 1,000 people.
Settlement System Consulting
Due to our status as an impartial intermediary and our focus on informing, empowering and connecting partners within the settlement space, WHTO is a trusted voice for neutral perspectives on what’s happening in or between various segments of the settlement system.
WHTO has developed a strong social media presence that allows us to amplify the successes and requests of our partners in the settlement ecosystem.
WHTO seems to cut through the red tape and gets at the heart of the real challenges facing newcomers, and inspires and empowers viable, sustainable solutions.
From attending our adult ESL classes, to inviting us to speak at their Month 13 event, WHTO believed in and guided On the Spot Language. Our partnership has resulted in On the Spot Language launching our pilot Newcomer Program.
Language has emerged as one of the most significant challenges for refugees as they are now passed Month 13. The quality of existing ESL programs has repeatedly been a contention in newcomers being able to progress their language skills, and in turn hindering their integration process.
WHTO connects the right people they have done and continue to do so, for On the Spot Language. Not only has WHTO given us a voice, but has continued to motivate and inspire us to keep on fighting the fight and not to give up.
The entire team at WHTO has supported On the Spot Language believing in what we’re doing to truly help these newcomers to reach their highest potential and to make Canada a stronger country.Anesh Daya