Ahlan Wa Sahlan! (Welcome! In Arabic)

The Alberta Capital Region Welcomes Syrian Families Home.

Try to imagine that for the past five years, your home, your country, has been ravaged by civil war.  You place your children in a rickety boat on the ocean, because, in your estimation, it is safer than the land.  Without anywhere to turn, these are some of the desperate measures Syrian families face.  They have fled or been displaced from their own homes – and, adults and children alike, live in terror and fear.  This is reality each and every day for the Syrian refugees who will find safety and comfort in Canada as they arrive at airports all across our country.  

We are Canadians – and nothing says it better than our commitment to open our arms wide and say, ‘welcome,’ as Canada prepares to provide 25,000 Syrian refugees with a safe, new home in our great country.  Here, in our province’s capital, Edmonton will welcome close to 1,500 people by February 2016 – families - from their war-torn Syrian homeland.

How does United Way help?

Any time United Way welcomes refugees to our community, we, along with our community partners, are there to help meet their needs.  We know that when refugee families are forced to find safety elsewhere, they require short-term help, but more importantly, they require long-term support to ensure that they can be successful and not just survive in their new country, but thrive and build a new life.   

In our community, for those arriving from Syria, the first point of arrival and settlement will likely start with United Way community partner, the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (EMCN) where families will be provided the basic necessities – shelter, food and personal care items. Translators will be on hand to help bridge the language barrier and ensure that families feel comfortable and cared for.  

What Next?  

United Way provides funding to many agencies and service providers who not only help people who are currently struggling in our community, but will also be there to help the Syrian families achieve long-term success.

Some of the supports that these families will need, beyond immediate settlement include; English as a Second Language (ESL), job and vocational training, financial literacy training, school supplies for their children, warm winter clothing, mentors – for both adults and school age children, permanent housing, food security, counselling to deal with the traumatic stress of war and being displaced.  All of these supports are available through United Way’s partner agencies.   Some examples of United Way community partners who are most likely to be first point of contact for the refugees, and also provide ongoing support until the newcomers can become acclimatized and realize some stability, include:

  1. Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers (Settlement, ESL, Food Security, Housing, Job skills and job placement)
  2. 211 – Information and Referral Line – provides information and is able to translate to Arabic for newcomers
  3. Regional Food Banks
  4. Project Adult Literacy Society  - (ESL)
  5. Canadian Mental Health Agency/The Support Network – Crisis Intervention Services
  6. The Family Centre – Interpreter Services
  7. E4C School Lunch Program
  8. BGCBigs –mentoring and before/after school programming
  9. Regional Boys and Girls Clubs – before/after school programming
  10. YMCA – family support and programming, building community connections
  11. United Way’s Tools for School and Coats for Kids & Families

How Can You Help?

With many of these agencies already experiencing an increased strain from the recent economic downturn, it is now even more critical that our community support United Way to ensure that we are able to continue our important work.

During this holiday season please consider making a gift or increasing your gift to United Way.  It will help our new community members have a much more stable start to 2016 and help them build a brighter future.  

Thank you – and happy holidays to you and yours from all of us at United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.  We are truly grateful for your support! Donate Today.