South­west New­comer Wel­come Cen­tre cel­e­brates decade of sup­port

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Matthew Lieben­berg mlieben­berg@prairiepos­t.com

The South­west New­comer Wel­come Cen­tre is cel­e­brat­ing its 10th an­niver­sary as a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion while also pre­par­ing to ex­pand its pro­grams.

It has been pro­vid­ing sup­port to many new­com­ers who came to south­west Saskatchew­an dur­ing the past decade to build a new fu­ture.

Wel­come Cen­tre Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Icasiana de Gala ap­pre­ci­ates the sup­port that the or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­ceived from the com­mu­nity dur­ing this time.

“It’s hard to quan­tify all the sup­port that we’ve re­ceived in the last 10 years from the com­mu­nity,” she said. “So I would just like to ex­tend my grat­i­tude to the com­mu­nity and to ev­ery­one who has helped us de­liver our pro­grams and ev­ery­one who has helped any new­comer, even not through us, and made this com­mu­nity more wel­com­ing.”

The Wel­come Cen­tre for­mally be­came a stand­alone non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion on May 26, 2010. Var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties have been planned to cel­e­brate this mile­stone, but the COVID-19 pan­demic and pub­lic health re­stric­tions will not make it pos­si­ble to have pub­lic events.

How­ever, the an­niver­sary is still cel­e­brated on so­cial me­dia through the Wel­come Cen­tre’s Face­book page. De Gala and Dr. Conor Barker, the cur­rent board chair, made a pre­sen­ta­tion via video con­fer­ence at a City of Swift Cur­rent coun­cil meet­ing on May 19 to high­light the 10th an­niver­sary.

A key fo­cus of the Wel­come Cen­tre’s cel­e­bra­tion on Face­book since early May has been the launch of the My Saskatchew­an Story project, which pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to new­com­ers to share their stories with oth­ers.

“One of the things we wanted to do ac­tu­ally dur­ing the plan­ning stage of our an­niver­sary was to com­pile stories of new­com­ers,” De Gala said. “We re­ally wanted to have that as part of our 10th an­niver­sary to com­pile those stories, and that’s not only from re­cent new­com­ers, but also from any­one with an im­mi­gra­tion story.”

The orig­i­nal in­ten­tion was to in­ter­view peo­ple and to help them to cre­ate videos, but now it has be­come a fun project for peo­ple to carry out dur­ing the pan­demic. They can cre­ate their own short two-minute videos at home to tell their per­sonal Saskatchew­an story and they can share a poem, song or dance.

These video sub­mis­sions will be posted on the Wel­come Cen­tre’s Face­book page and if enough sub­mis­sions are re­ceived, these stories might even be used to cre­ate a pub­li­ca­tion or to pro­duce a play.

De Gala felt it is im­por­tant to share these stories, be­cause the jour­ney of each new­comer is unique and it can help to cre­ate a greater un­der­stand­ing of the rea­sons they came to Saskatchew­an and of their con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­nity.

The Wel­come Cen­tre’s main fo­cus is to as­sist new­com­ers who have de­cided to set­tle in south­west Saskatchew­an, but she be­lieves this ser­vice has a broader ben­e­fit to the com­mu­nity.

“If you’re new to a com­mu­nity and some­one ap­proached you and said we are here to help you, that means a lot to that per­son,” she said.

“It’s the feel­ing that some­one is there to help us, that we are not alone com­ing here. We help one fam­ily at a time.

… For in­di­vid­u­als or fam­i­lies, it’s a huge help, and when you bring all the new­com­ers to­gether who re­ceived that sup­port, you have a bet­ter new­comer com­mu­nity, be­cause now they want to give back.”

The re­gion has be­come more di­verse dur­ing the past 10 years and new­com­ers from al­most 100 coun­tries have come to south­west Saskatchew­an. Some of the pro­grams and ac­tiv­i­ties hosted by the Wel­come Cen­tre help to bring com­mu­nity mem­bers to­gether to share and en­joy the cul­tural di­ver­sity in the com­mu­nity.

The his­tory of the Wel­come Cen­tre stretches back to 2005, when the Labour At­trac­tion and Re­ten­tion Com­mit­tee in Swift Cur­rent formed an im­mi­gra­tion sub­com­mit­tee to look at ways to at­tract and re­tain for­eign work­ers in the re­gion and to sup­port the new­com­ers.

The Wel­come Cen­tre started to func­tion in early 2007 with a sin­gle staff mem­ber from an of­fice lo­cated at Great Plains Col­lege.

The Wel­come Cen­tre re­ceived ad­di­tional fund­ing in 2008 and a sec­ond staff mem­ber was ap­pointed. The or­ga­ni­za­tion also moved to its own lo­ca­tion in down­town Swift Cur­rent.

It be­came a stand­alone non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion on May 26, 2010 and a third staff mem­ber was ap­pointed. The Wel­come Cen­tre moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion at 237 Cen­tral Av­enue North in Septem­ber 2010.

De Gala was ap­pointed as ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor in 2011, and she re­called that the Wel­come Cen­tre con­tin­ued to op­er­ate with only three staff mem­bers for sev­eral years.

She fo­cused on pro­gram de­vel­op­ment and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of fund­ing sources for these ini­tia­tives. The or­ga­ni­za­tion cur­rently em­ploys seven staff.

“We tried to do ev­ery­thing, when there were three of us,” she said.

“Now there’s a spe­cific pro­gram that would han­dle a spe­cific task. So we have the em­ploy­ment, the com­mu­nity con­nec­tions, and it’s be­com­ing de­part­men­tal­ized. Now that there are peo­ple do­ing cer­tain parts of the work, we’re able to look at the pro­gram and de­liver it more ef­fi­ciently, in­stead of hav­ing to be the jack of all trades.”

The Wel­come Cen­tre re­cently signed a new five-year fed­eral con­tract with Im­mi­gra­tion, Refugees and Cit­i­zen­ship Canada, which will make it pos­si­ble to ex­pand pro­grams and staffing ca­pac­ity.

The Wel­come Cen­tre is in the process of hir­ing four new staff mem­bers, who will be start­ing their du­ties on June 1. The po­si­tions of ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant, set­tle­ment worker and com­mu­nity con­nec­tions worker will pro­vide ad­di­tional sup­port and ca­pac­ity to ex­ist­ing pro­gram ac­tiv­i­ties.

The fourth po­si­tion of lo­cal im­mi­gra­tion part­ner­ship (LIP) co­or­di­na­tor will be re­spon­si­ble for over­see­ing a new ini­tia­tive. The

LIP pro­gram will in­clude a steer­ing com­mit­tee and other struc­tures to en­hance col­lab­o­ra­tion and co­or­di­na­tion be­tween part­ners and stake­hold­ers on the com­mu­nity level in sup­port of the set­tle­ment of new­com­ers.

De Gala feels ex­cited about the new five-year con­tract and the pos­si­bil­i­ties to in­crease pro­gram de­liv­ery in the re­gion. She noted that the Wel­come Cen­tre will con­tinue to eval­u­ate the needs of new­com­ers and de­velop pro­grams to sup­port their set­tle­ment.

“There’s al­ways that op­por­tu­nity to do more or to change what you’re do­ing and to im­prove what you’re do­ing to cater to the need of the time,” she said. She is thank­ful for the many vol­un­teers and part­ners who have sup­ported the Wel­come Cen­tre dur­ing the past decade.

“Def­i­nitely within the last 10 years we would not be able to do the work that we do if not for our part­ners, all of the other or­ga­ni­za­tions that pro­vide sup­port to new­com­ers and all the em­ploy­ers that have em­ployed new­com­ers,” she said.

“We are just thank­ful for the part­ner­ship ei­ther of­fered to us or that was built, and the dif­fer­ent part­ners that we have. We trea­sure the vol­un­teers that we have and we’re just thank­ful for the peo­ple who come there to help us.”

The South­west New­comer Wel­come Cen­tre is lo­cated in down­town Swift Cur­rent.

ICASIANA DE GALA

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