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Services offering help and hope when in an unfamiliar country

By: Martina Buehler, communications volunteer

Imagine arriving to a new country without knowing anyone, not speaking the language or knowing how to access the services you may need. This is the situation for many refugees worldwide.

Often fleeing their homes because of unimaginable hardship, they arrive in Canada with little to nothing at all and are extremely vulnerable. In many cases, refugees don’t have access to the necessary resources to establish themselves or the knowledge about services that can provide help and support.

To address this need, the Canadian Red Cross established a program called First Contact in 2001. Part of the Migrant and Refugee Services offered by the Canadian Red Cross, First Contact aims to provide refugees with the support they need to help prevent marginalization, distress, poverty, and exploitation. First Contact helps by giving refugees access to information about emergency shelter, social services, legal and health services.

The First Contact Program also started offering workshops to guide refugees through the refugee claim process in partnership and collaboration with the Toronto Refugee Welcome Centre that consists of a group of eight agencies in OntarioRecently, the First Contact Program also started offering workshops to guide refugees through the refugee claim process in partnership and collaboration with the Toronto Refugee Welcome Centre that consists of a group of eight agencies in Ontario. The group provides support to refugees at different stages of the refugee claim process and helps them navigate systems in Canada.

The weekly workshops have covered a variety of topics such as how to prepare for the hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, budget planning, social services, English classes, how to apply for Canadian visas, as well as guidance when searching for housing in the Greater Toronto Area.

“Attendees have been very receptive and appreciative of the information being provided at the workshops,” said Alexandra Graziosi, Coordinator, First Contact Program. “Over the last three months, we have been able to run eight workshops and reach 150 attendees.”

Learn more about First Contact and read more about Migrant and Refugee Services of the Canadian Red Cross.
 
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