Open Wallets and Generous Hearts Help Settle a Record-Breaking Number of Syrian Newcomers

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The Immigration Partnership Fund for Syrian Newcomers

A teakettle. For anyone who has grown up in Canada with one of these small appliances sitting on the counter, using one is a snap. Fill it. Press down the lever and wait for it to pop up again to signal the water has boiled. 

But for many newcomers to this country, simple and everyday tasks - boiling water, for instance - are puzzles waiting to be solved. 

"Things just operate differently here," says Tara Bedard, manager of the Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership. "Every little thing is potentially different and needs to be learned again."

Luckily, numerous local charitable organizations have been able to draw on financial support generated by The Immigration Partnership Fund for Syrian Newcomers to create programs aimed at helping people integrate seemingly at lightning speed. 

The Fund was established at The KWCF in 2015 in response to the announcement that over 1,000 Syrian newcomers would be arriving in Waterloo Region in the coming year. The Foundation, a partner tasked with handling financial contributions from the community, matched donations. So far, nearly $700,000 has been raised. 

After a whirlwind 2016 helping newly arrived families resettle, Bedard anticipates that 2017 will be just as busy. For starters, more than 1,750 newcomers actually arrived in the region - not the 1,150 originally predicted. And the number is still growing. 

But, just as importantly, the original families are now facing new, long-term challenges that go along with settling in Canada: how to find jobs, make new friends, find suitable housing and create family budgets. 

"How do we meet those initial needs while we continue to provide ongoing support to people who have earlier arrived in the community?" Bedard asks. 

To meet the needs of everyone, grants totalling over $600,000 have been approved for agencies supporting Syrian newcomers so far. For instance, Reception House, which provides short-term housing and services, will ensure newcomer adults receive much-needed dental care. It's also now running a homework club on Monday and Wednesday evenings for Syrian youth. For some of these kids, it's the first time they can remember tackling math questions without the fear of violence breaking out nearby. 

Bedard says that none of these life-changing programs would have been possible without the financial guidance of The KWCF.

"The support from the Community Foundation has been phenomenal for ensuring a really broad range of services are accessible to everyone who needs them," she says.