Welcome group support of government assisted refugee newcomers
Welcome Groups, consisting of five or more volunteers, are being established in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), London, Ottawa, and Thunder Bay to connect Government-Assisted Refugee (GAR) newcomers with established Canadian residents.
The aim of Welcome Groups is to provide friendship and settlement support, including help to find work, similar to the support provided by private sponsor groups in Canada, but without any financial commitment.
The matching of Welcome Groups with GARs is being undertaken by the non-profit organization, Together Project.
Unlike Privately Sponsored Refugees (PSRs), GARs do not come to Canada with the financial and emotional support of private sponsors. They are also not usually reuniting with family and friends who are already living in Canada and who might provide them with additional support.
Blended Visa Office Referred (BVOR) refugees are drawn from the same overseas pool of applicants as GARs, but are fortunate to have been matched with private sponsors prior to their arrival in Canada.
As GARs generally arrive in Canada with less education, often with more physical and mental health issues, and without the support of private sponsors, family, and friends, Welcome Groups can play a very valuable role in terms of a wide range of settlement issues, but with respect to employment, in particular.
As described on the website of Together Project:
“At the outset, Welcome Groups work with GAR newcomers as they access health care, enroll in school and language classes, look for work, and navigate daily life. In a new country, it’s useful to have an advocate and a guide.
“The most important donation you will make is the gift of your time. Whether a few hours a week or a few hours a month, the most successful matches are formed through shared experiences. Hikes in a park or learning to skate, enjoying lunches and coffees, birthday parties and soccer matches – these opportunities allow for the “in between moments” to happen, where real life unfolds. It is where the fabric of a social network is woven, and the building blocks of a successful future are laid. Together Project is committed to encouraging these moments by facilitating the shared use of Toronto’s public spaces.
“Together Project is founded on the simple idea that social networks are a crucial factor for rapid, and durable integration. The best case scenario is for Welcome Groups and newcomer families to become friends and learn to see Toronto from one another’s perspectives. If the friendship is not mutual, as in any friendship, either group may choose to leave the relationship.”
“To join or form a new Welcome Group of five volunteers, complete a registration form on the Together Project website.”