Tuesday, April 9, 2013

 

Community News

Throwing Out the Welcome Mat

Welcoming Communities Program launched 

Released by April Neave, Chilliwack Community Services

 

mmigrants to the City of Chilliwack receive a warm reception at Chilliwack Community Services. Through English language classes, orientation sessions and one-on-one support with a settlement worker, newcomers get the information and services they need to help them settle in their new home.

Now, with a new initiative in place called the Welcoming Communities Program the agency will be able to build on this work in the broader community. Funded by the Province of BC, its focus is on working with local organizations to identify ways to create a welcoming and inclusive community and increasing the capacity to support the integration of new immigrants.

“It means that in this particular program we will be working on making structural changes to the systems, not providing direct services to clients” commented April Neave, Director of Community Programs. “With community organizations working cooperatively, we are aiming to improve access to services and to provide opportunities for newcomers and residents to meet and build intercultural relationships”.

Already a ten member Community Partnership has formed including representatives from the City of Chilliwack, School District #33, YMCA, faith community and private and public sector. It has completed an ambitious Plan of Action for the next twelve months.  Included in the plan is the development of a Newcomer Welcome Kit, multilingual brochures and a comprehensive list of newcomer services. 

There will be a research project to collect baseline data on the immigrant experience in this community as well as activities such as classroom pilot project and community dialogues and workshops that highlight the contribution and needs of newcomers. Each initiative within the program will be evaluated to determine the degree of success or change that result.

An Immigrant Business Fair slated for Friday May 3rd at the Central Elementary Community School multi-purpose room is the first public event presented by the Welcoming Communities Program. This fair will;

• showcase the variety of products and services that newcomers bring to the community

• demonstrate the contribution newcomers are making to the local economy

• provide a venue for newcomers and residents to meet one another.

There will be samples, demonstrations and product sales.  A number of local employment and business related services will also be on site.  The fair is open to the public and a perfect opportunity to experience the diversity of Chilliwack.

Ms. Neave believes each of the elements in the program’s Plan of Action represent   small steps in the short term but will lead to larger, systemic changes in the future.  “The Community Partnership is very committed” says Ms. Neave. “I believe it is going to be a major force in contributing to an even more welcoming and inclusive community in Chilliwack!” 

To support the group in its work, the agency has recruited Melissa Warren as Program Coordinator. Ms Warren is an alumna of Sardis Secondary School and recent graduate of University of New Brunswick in Public Policy and Political Science.

The Welcoming Communities Program is one of the more than forty programs offered by Chilliwack Community Services. The agency is an independent local charity organization with offices downtown and in Sardis. Since 1928 the agency has provided caring community services to create opportunities with people to make positive change in their lives.

For more information contact April Neave at via e-mail here or Melissa Warren here  at (604) 393 -3251.

For more information on the services CCC provides, visit www.comserv.bc.ca

 

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