Red Cross SmartStart offers an injury prevention program for newcomers

By: Michelle Palansky, communications advisor
In 2018, Faith Okolie and her family arrived in Montreal as refugees from Nigeria. They were in danger and sought safe haven in Canada. They found it, and now Faith teaches newcomers in Winnipeg how they can stay safe in their new homes.
A woman with a bottle of household cleaner pointing to the fine print on the back of the bottle to someone on the laptopFaith is a volunteer with the Canadian Red Cross program “SmartStart: Injury Prevention for Newcomers.” Presenters provide Zoom workshops on the specific skills newcomers need when they relocate to Winnipeg.
“We have the opportunity to share different safety measures for people who are new to Canada. Be it fire, vehicles, swimming – helping people to learn how to live well, in safety. Most of all during the wintertime when a lot of people struggle learning what to wear, how to get about, and keeping safe in the winter season.”
Faith recalls her first taste of Canadian winter.
“We first arrived in Montreal. The cold hit us. Oh, my goodness! We’ve never felt this way before. We asked ourselves, ‘how are we going to go about living this life?’”
Her experiences as a refugee help her connect with the workshop participants.
“It always brings a nostalgic feeling, knowing that I've been this way too," Faith explains.
Winter safety starts with dressing for the elements but there are many other topics that SmartStart covers, including fire safety. Kitchen fires are the leading cause of home fires in Canada.
Faith reviews essential tips like cooking safety in the workshop. “There's a tendency to forget that stove burners absorb oil, and we forget to clean it up. When people make food, we encourage them to stay attentive.”
She adds, “An important aspect of safety when it comes to fire is having an escape plan. It's always good for families to have a plan in mind and let every person in the family know what the escape plan is. That way, they know what to do even in the blink of an eye, without getting confused about what to do. And it’s important for families to constantly review their fire escape plans.”
Faith points out that first aid information is valuable to all Canadians.  
“Every one of us could use refresher courses on issues around things like fire safety and poisons. The SmartStart program is a very important part of Red Cross. I'm glad to be a part of it.”
If you’re in Winnipeg, learn more about the Red Cross SmartStart program. Newcomers across Canada are encouraged to explore first aid courses available near you, as well as Red Cross resources, programs and services in your community. Stay safe!

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