A welcome home to arriving refugees
After months spent working feverishly to resettle a wave of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria, the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. has hit a long-awaited milestone.
On Saturday, ISSofBC will formally open its new Welcome Centre at 2610 Victoria Dr., a fully integrated, 138-bed facility offering a variety of services to newly arrived refugees and immigrants.
“We’ve been working on this building concept for many years,” said Patricia Woroch, CEO of ISSofBC. “The concept is key: to have a multi-purpose facility that addresses our mission, which is, ‘helping immigrants build a future in Canada.’”
While Woroch says the facility will benefit all newcomers to Metro Vancouver, public focus on refugee resettlement has been especially sharp in recent months, as about 1,600 government-sponsored Syrian refugees arrived in the city.
“The Syrian refugees posed a particular challenge because of the sheer numbers and rapid relocation from camp to Canada,” said Woroch. “The demands on limited resources were staggering. However, we rose to the occasion and continue to work with the newest of Canadians in our usual manner.”
An additional group of about 1,300 refugees is expected in Metro Vancouver this autumn, many of whom will likely make use of what the Welcome Centre has to offer, including transitional housing, language training and employment services.
And while the dueling responsibilities of resettling newcomers and completing the Welcome Centre have stretched ISSofBC in recent months, Woroch says the organization has been buoyed by support from the community at large.
“We have been overwhelmed by the kindness and support we’ve received,” she said. “This is a special community in that it is vibrant, diverse and inclusive.
“From welcome cards sent by community groups to offers of any number of kindnesses, we have this wonderful sense of ‘coming home’.”
Now, the focus shifts to providing a similar sense of homecoming to the thousands of newcomers who’ll arrive in Metro Vancouver over the next year. Woroch acknowledges that integration can be difficult for refugees; but she is hopeful that with 44 years of experience and its brand-new Welcome Centre ready to go, ISSofBC is in a prime position to help Syrian refugees — and all new arrivals — make the most of their new lives in Canada.
ISSofBc will open its new facility on Saturday.