Supporting newcomers to Canada through arts, culture and education

By: Alyson Gourley-Cramer, Communications advisor, Canadian Red Cross
Imagine moving to a new country during a global pandemic. Already feeling the isolating effects of unfamiliar surroundings, you’re now faced with the challenge of making a new life for yourself and your family during a widespread lockdown.

“There is so much culture shock experienced when a new family comes to Canada, and if you can imagine trying to move to a new country during a global pandemic. It is socially isolating and almost impossible to get the help you need,” said Towunmi Coker, founder of the Towunmi Coker Literary Initiative Foundation (TCLI).
The TCLI Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Alberta that supports new residents and families in need. It provides educational and social programming with three core foundational pillars – financial stability, quality education, and safe health practices. The Foundation’s efforts are geared towards effecting positive societal change through literature, arts and culture.
After receiving additional funding from the Canadian Red Cross through the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund, the TCLI Foundation was able to extend further resources in ways it never thought possible. They introduced new programs for both adults and youths to encourage, educate and support them during this challenging time.
Screen shot of physical activities for kids with children participating via video conferencing

An Alberta-based non-profit is expanding the services it offers to newcomer families, using funding provided by the Government of Canada. The Towunmi Coker Literary Initiative says the funding, distributed by the Red Cross, is making a huge difference in the lives of newcomers as they try to navigate life in a new country, during a pandemic. 

A six-week program was launched for 28 children filled with educational activities, videos, crafts, and snacks. Seventeen adults also registered for the next session for socially distant in-person learning and online courses to assist with literacy and personal finance. Care packages of food items, groceries, confectioneries and gift cards were also put together to support families in their transition to a new community, with some even being loaned laptops. “When you come to a new country, it can be incredibly difficult to learn the new financial and social landscape,” explained Coker. “Our role is to be as supportive as we can.”
The programs have been a huge success. Parents talk about how happy their children are to attend, even waking up early to make sure they get there on time. It gives them something to look forward to and has helped them make friends within their own cultural community.
The TCLI Foundation’s motto is “We dare to, because, we can achieve together” and with the additional funding, the organization has been able to reach several families and provide support as they adjust to a new home in Canada.
“This funding for the program will make all the difference in their lives,” added Coker.
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 beginning October 5, 2020. For more information, please visit

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