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Helping newcomers to Canada manage the challenges of living in a pandemic

By: Michelle Palansky, Communications advisor, Canadian Red Cross
 
When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, newcomer families to Canada were among those hit particularly hard. Regularly accessed community programs shut down, and the sense of isolation grew as spring turned to summer.The Al-Shehab family: Anwar and Faisal (back row); Moayad, Mohaned, Maryam
 
“I did not expect we would be able to deliver any programs in the summer,” said Feisal Adem, director of Rahma Community and Youth Centre in Winnipeg.
 
However, with funding from the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, distributed by the Red Cross, the organization is now able to continue to deliver badly needed programming.
 
Before the pandemic, Rahma provided recreational, academic, and counselling supports for its community. The Centre offered after-school tutoring, sports nights, mentoring opportunities between Canadian youth and immigrant children, and community feasts.
 
The timely grant has made it possible to continue with at least some of the services. Families who regularly use the centre are grateful for the support.
 Photo of child
Faisal Al-Shehab immigrated to Canada from Syria four years ago with his wife and four children. “I am enjoying my life in Canada but miss some of the community I left in Syria,” said Al-Shehab. “Rahma Centre has helped me and my children get connected in the community.”
 
The pandemic has been particularly challenging for the children. “My wife and I are still not very comfortable with English to help the kids with their homework. Since COVID-19 my kids have not been in school and have fallen behind in their assignments. Rahma has allowed them to get the support they needed to complete the work and catch up.”
 
Al-Shehab’s children are also enthusiastic about the programs saying, “I like spending time with my friend. I like the pizza night. The tutors are very kind and help me understand my homework.”
 The Hussein family: Anbiya, Chaltu, Mohamed, Ramadan
Mohamad Hussein has two children in the program, Ramadan and Anbiya.
 
Hussein appreciates the program as both he and his wife work evenings which makes it difficult for them to monitor how the children are doing with their homework. “Rahma’s volunteers and staff help me know about the progress of the kids on their schoolwork. Ramadan had difficulty in algebra and one of the tutors, Falmata, helped him improve and now he is more confident.”
 
Hussein’s eldest, Chaltu, is in university and volunteers with the after-school program. “This program helps me gain experience and I like volunteering with kids,” she said.
 
The Rahma Community and Youth Centre provides critical supports and services to immigrants with the funding coming at the perfect time.
 Photo of child
“The funding you provided has helped us hire additional staff for this program to accommodate the additional demands due to COVID-19,” said Adem. “This was really wonderful timing and the funding really helps us a lot.”

The Canadian Red Cross is funding the continuation of this work thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund granting program.

If your organization is a non-profit that delivers services to those who are the most vulnerable to the health and social impacts of COVID-19 you may also be eligible for grant funding or free personal protective equipment (PPE) and training.

A second round of funding, PPE and training is being made available between October 5 - 30, 2020.
For more information, please visit
www.redcross.ca/communityorganizations.
 
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