How you can help refugees in an uncertain time

Stories | June 9, 2020
House and hand

Refugees to communities in Canada are facing increasing uncertainty due to COVID-19. Organizations included in our #ChooseYourImpact campaign were chosen for their direct contributions to helping those forced to leave their home countries. 

While COVID-19 many aspects of life on pause for all of us, refugees have seen services come to a complete standstill. Due to the pandemic, the two government entities that normally process refugee claims have paused programs — the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 

This is leaving refugee claimants in limbo, according to Inasmuch Executive Director Richard Belcham. Inasmuch is a Canadian registered charity that provides transition housing, settlement services, English language training, education advice, employment mentoring, and more for refugee claimants in Abbotsford and the Fraser Valley.

In addition, many borders are closed leaving refugees with little recourse to escape dangerous situations. “Refugee claimants face innumerable and significant barriers on a good day, including isolation, lack of information, lack of shelter and housing, lack of access to federally funded settlement services, and mind-numbing bureaucratic mazes complicated by their unique immigration status as temporary residents seeking refugee protection,” said Kinbrace Executive Director Loren Balisky in an email interview. 

Balisky founded Kinbrace in 1998 to respond to concerns for the housing and support needs of people seeking refugee protection in Vancouver and across Canada. 

Just like most other Canadians, refugees have also been affected by the economic downturn and reduced access to employment opportunities, leaving them more vulnerable. 

What can donors do to help now

Through the #ChooseYourImpact campaign, you can support organizations helping refugees to thrive in their new Canadian communities. Our partners with the Vancouver Social Value Fund (VSVF) and the Social Innovation Academy (SIA) met with organizations working in this area to learn about their needs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Charitable Impact created the Refugee Claimant Giving Group where you easily give to charities making a difference right now. VSVF and SIA identified the three partnering organizations as leaders in providing support and services across the Metro Vancouver region. Your gift will be divided equally between the three charities to spread help to newly arriving refugee claimants.

“VSVF and SIA are inspired by Kinbrace, Inasmuch, and Journey Home’s commitments to their mission, and their communal approach to raising shared donation funds through this Giving Group,” said Steve Petterson, Director of the National Social Value Fund. 

What you are supporting 

Each refugee experiences the transition to a new country in a different way. The organizations working to address their needs provide individualized support, from assistance with basic needs — like housing and employment — to friendship and community building. 

Inasmuch provides transition housing for up to six months, helping with the difficult stage of the claiming process. “Speaking for Inasmuch, at the heart of what we do, and the key to the success of our refugee program is the unique combination of personalized settlement services and our Canadian cultural English language education program,” said Belcham. “This combination has enabled refugee claimants to find work, volunteer, make friends and integrate very successfully into Canadian society.”

Kinbrace provides housing, orientation, education, and accompaniment services. The Journey Home Community works with refugee families arriving in Canada to provide permanent housing and provides them with a place to stay for the first three to four months.

With a combined experience of more than 45 years in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, these three organizations—Inasmuch Community Society, Journey Home Community Association, and Kinbrace Community Society—provide comprehensive and dedicated assistance to refugee claimant families’ unique needs.

What are you giving to as a donor

“Donors can support our work through general giving which provides food and basic living expenses for refugee claimants before they claim income assistance,” said Belcham. “Donations also support our big community dinners and events where folks can come together and share their experiences and support the folks who are new to Inasmuch.” There are also other ways to give such as through new materials, ESL books, and education supplies to the charity. 

According to Balinsky, donors supporting this cause are helping keep Kinbrace transitional houses staffed and operating; providing funds for food gift cards, bedding, and welcome baskets with essentials; enabling highly trained and expert staff to address refugees’ needs; and covering operational costs such as cleaning, maintenance, transportation, and utilities.

Very significantly, donations also go towards more long-term positive impacts and valuable transformations — for refugees and for the Canadian society they are entering. By giving, donors are helping to provide a welcoming environment and a community to be a part of. 

“Donors can support the often unquantifiable (but profoundly transformative) building and sustaining of communities where refugee claimants and Canadians flourish together,” said Balinksy. “This takes hard work, intentionality, and long commitment because it fundamentally requires a change to culture, systems, perceptions, and neighbourhoods.”

Approaching with empathy

There are ways that we can better understand the challenges faced by refugees. Empathy provides a point of view on their experiences. “COVID-19 has gifted us with an immediate and urgent empathy for each other as we’ve experienced once solid ground turned shaky, displacing our footings. Remembering this time will serve us well as we step forward to welcome those forcibly displaced and seeking refuge,” said Balinksy.

You can give to support the Refugee Claimant Giving Group today.

 

We understand most of us don’t have the time or resources needed to make the most informed giving decisions. That’s why we have launched the #ChooseYourImpact campaign, connecting you to passionate changemakers and thought leaders — called Impact Ambassadors.

We have partnered with the Vancouver Social Value Fund (VSVF), a youth-led fund created in partnership with the Vancouver impact community, and the Social Innovation Academy (SIA), a learning initiative led by UBC Sauder Centre for Social Innovation & Impact Investing (SauderS3i). You can choose to give to a range of causes impacted and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including access to food security, seniors’ wellbeing, reducing violence, and Indigenous communities. More Giving Groups will be added as the campaign expands. 

Share this through social media.