Providing Healthcare and Dignity to Refugee Newcomers


For many newcomers in our community, seeking medical treatment isn’t easy especially if they have arrived as refugees. Their traumatic experiences in getting here have put them all at risk, and in need of some form of medical care, if only assessment. Some have pre-existing conditions that have gone untreated, e.g. diabetes or nutritional deficiencies and recurring bouts of malaria; a large number require mental health and trauma counselling.

The Sanctuary Refugee Clinic has been operating since 2013 and has grown from 6 to more than 2,600 patients. Of these, almost 47% are youth under the age of 20.

Refugee newcomers do not leave their home countries by choice. Their determination to survive and resilience in overcoming obstacles is their strength.

According to Margaret Brockett, Associate Director of the Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre, “many have spent years in refugee camps with very little health care, if any.”

Sanctuary Refugee Health Centre helps break down language and cultural barriers, assesses needs, provides treatment and referral to specialists to help ensure the continuing care so necessary for complex situations.  “Sanctuary offers interpretation on site at no charge, and will send interpreters with patients to specialist appointments,” Margaret explained.

This work, fuelled by volunteers and licenced health care professionals, helps ensure that vulnerable people are able to access appropriate services.  


Sanctuary also works with other local organizations to ensure that the needs of all their patients are met. SHORE, for example, works with them to provide workshops on healthy relationships and family planning. They also have strong ties with Immigration Partnership, helping refugee newcomers to navigate systems within the community and feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

The clinic also has partnerships with Conestoga College, Wilfrid Laurier University, and the University of Waterloo; a number of students volunteer or undertake projects as part of their learning.

By building collaborative relationships with other community groups, Sanctuary is able to ensure that the health care needs of refugee newcomers in our community are met. If you are interested in volunteering at the clinic, or making a financial contribution, please visit their website at A large portion of the services that Sanctuary offers in our community depend upon volunteers and every little bit of help makes a difference.