The Salvation Army helps smooth the transition for refugees.
More than 40,000 Syrian refugees have come into Canada since 2015 and been welcomed into nearly 400 communities across the country, according to the federal government.
But escaping the trauma of war and displacement requires more than simply a place to settle, and that’s where organizations like The Salvation Army mobilize resources to smooth the transition by helping with necessities, such as food and clothing, and help with housing and language training.
Refugees from Syria and other countries were among the 1.9 million people The Salvation Army helped in the past year, according to the organization’s 2016-17 annual report.
Paula Marshall, The Salvation Army’s immigrant and refugee ministries consultant, says services were provided in Winnipeg and Montreal to support refugee claimants crossing into Canada from the United States.
“They were provided temporary housing in our shelters when they first arrived,” says Ms. Marshall.
Refugee claimants were also referred to The Salvation Army by police, government agencies, other settlement agencies and word of mouth, she adds.
The Salvation Army also prepared a welcome package, which includes information on how immigrants/refugees can access the organization’s Community and Family Services, as well as receive clothing vouchers for use in Salvation Army Thrift Stores across the country.
In its bid to aid newcomers to Canada, 10,100 people received language training through The Salvation Army’s Immigration and Refugee Services and in some areas, such as Toronto, it partners with the Toronto District School Board to facilitate ESL classes.
“In other places we do conversation circles – a place for people to practise their English skills, so we’re not really teaching but providing a place where somebody who speaks English will sit down with the person and help them practise having a conversation,” says Ms. Marshall.
“We also have community events and job fairs and offer programs where people can learn to cook using typical Canadian foods, or opportunities to simply meet one another informally,” she adds.
Community-building is an important aspect of refugee and immigrant settlement.
“Many newcomers have left behind everything they knew, their whole family and their extended community, all their traditions. There’s a sense of loss. Even though they wanted to come to Canada in some cases, they’ve left behind their community, so they need an opportunity to rebuild that part of their lives as well,” says Ms. Marshall.
While her work focuses on immigrants and refugees, she notes The Salvation Army’s philosophy is reflected in its ‘Whosoever’ approach.
“Whoever walks in our door will find acceptance, and help, and welcome. We want to make sure that no one feels like they can’t come to The Salvation Army for any reason. Anyone who comes to us will be helped, and served, not just with food and clothing but by creating community and friendships,” she says.
The impact of The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda is apparent in other statistics is noted in the annual report: 184,000 meals were served in school breakfast programs; 3.3 million free meals were served in shelters and feeding programs; and 1,326,000 people were assisted with food, clothing or other practical assistance.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.