When the Vietnamese Boat People arrived in Canada in the early 1980s the entire nation got involved in their reception and settlement. Today, its happening again. Upwards of 10,000 Syrian refugees will arrive by the end of 2015 and another 15,000 by end of February 2016. Some will be government sponsored, while many will be privately sponsored by motivated groups of citizens who are committed to welcoming Syrian families.
CultureLink is well placed to help these new arrivals as it is was created in response to the lessons learned during the resettlement of Vietnamese refugees. Federal (1986) and Provincial (1987) reports recommended that newcomers be settled more quickly and supported by settlement services. The Metro Toronto HOST program was established in 1988 as a result of these recommendations. Four years later, the HOST program became CultureLink Settlement Services of Metropolitan Toronto.
Today, CultureLink is a leading settlement service provider in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world. Today, CultureLink enjoys a reputation of being a welcoming environment for newcomers and a true reflection of our communities, which is evidenced by the talented and multilingual staff who serve clients in more than 30 languages. Today, CultureLink is in a position to assist these refugees as demonstrated by our long standing mission and history.
Contact: CultureLink Reception at 416-588-6288
Location: #301 – 2340 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON M6P 4A9, across the street from Dundas West Subway Station. We are inside the Crossways Mall, above Toronto Public Health.
WHAT WE ARE DOING TO SUPPORT SYRIAN REFUGEES
We provide direct support for Syrian Refugees at CultureLink main office and at various sites. These services include:
CultureLink has five staff who speak Arabic. These staff will be available to provide translation and cultural interpretation when Syrian refugees who do not speak English require support.
Connecting Refugees to the Local Community
CultureLink has over 500 trained volunteers in the Community Connections Mentorship Program (formerly know as the Host Program) which aims to bring new and established Canadians together to build a stronger, more welcoming and inclusive community. This initiative can be traced back to the inception of CultureLink. Over the last 27 years, this program has engaged local communities to help newly arrived immigrants and refugees feel at home, and assist them with realizing their full potential in Canadian society.
While the Mentorship Program has inherited the key strengths of the former Host Program–being able to mobilize host communities to facilitate newcomers’ settlement–it has gone beyond the facilitation of settlement to focus sharply on the eventual integration of newcomers. This program takes a holistic and multipronged approach to integrate newcomers not only economically but also socioculturally, and to empower newcomers to become our program partners rather than service recipients. This is done by matching newcomers with trained and experienced volunteer mentors in the following major categories of group mentorship/circles:
- English Conversation Circles (ECC)
- Citizenship Education Mentoring Circles
- Career Mentoring Circles/Club
- Wintegration (Winter + Integration) Club
- Newcomers Explore & Appreciate Toronto (NEAT Walking Circles)
- BikeHOST Club
Reaching Refugees through Schools and Libraries
Our settlement workers provide a variety of services in schools, school reception centres and libraries in the South West area of Toronto. These are available to both government sponsored and privately sponsored Syrian refugees and include:
- Assessments to determine the needs of individuals and families.
- Referrals to resources, information and organizations of assistance during settlement.
- Parent information and orientation sessions at reception centres and schools.
- Referrals to youth programs at our main office and elsewhere.
Job search assistance is available for adult refugees and will include basic information on resume and cover letter development as well as the Canadian labour market.
Collection and Distribution of Donations for Syrian Refugees
We collected a variety of new and gently used items for distribution to Syrian refugees through our onsite Distribution Centre. The Centre opened Jan 18, 2016 and closed on May 20, 2016.
Information and Support for Refugees and Sponsors
CultureLink will provide an area on our website where we will post ongoing opportunities and training sessions geared towards supporting Syrian refugees and their sponsors. At the same time, we are developing an information base of resources available for Syrian refugees and for private sponsors. This will increase access to the services and support available through the settlement sector and the wider community.
In addition, we are enhancing the ability of our staff and agency to serve Syrian refugees through networking, taking training focused on assisting those who have experienced trauma, and finding out what we can do and what other organizations in the settlement sector are planning.