A message from our Interim CEO
“We just want to go back home”, is a refrain we often hear at Reception House. It does not reflect ingratitude to be in a place of safety, but the fact that people who arrive in our community through refugee resettlement had no choice and long for home. Refugees are forced to flee their homes due to armed conflict and persecution. And for most people, the journey to safety is fraught with all kinds of perils. At Reception House, we have the great privilege of finding ways to support the people we serve to settle, thrive and hopefully, in the long run, feel at home.
But, it is not easy. Here are just some of the obstacles that our systems present and through our services we support people to navigate and overcome:
- Many people arrive with complex physical and mental healthcare needs and experience multiple barriers to accessing our health care system. One of our key partners, Neil Arya of Refugee Health Clinic was recently interviewed by The Record about these challenges – you can read the article here: https://www.therecord.com/
news/waterloo-region/2022/03/ 24/refugee-medical-clinic- appeals-for-help.html
- People also need housing. Our current housing crisis means that rental costs exceed the monthly income assistance provided by the federal government forcing people to use other benefits, like the Child Tax Credit to cover their rent. This places people in a precarious situation and requires them to spend well above 30% of their income on housing.
- Those who can, want to work but many jobs require a level of English that few people have. Employers also often require people to have prior Canadian work experience, while not recognizing foreign credentials or education.
- Children are placed in school according to age, but due to years where access to education was denied or sporadic, gaps in education can hamper progress.
The gaps in services in our community are going to become even more pronounced with the number of refugees Canada has pledged to resettle over the next two years. We are preparing to receive over double the average number of people and are concerned that the lack of health care providers and housing will have a serious, negative impact on our ability to meet the needs of people arriving in our community.
We are committed to working with partners in the community to address these needs for everyone, as we can also expect to see an increased need for housing, health care and financial support to cover basic needs of the anticipated influx of Ukrainians.
As we welcome Babur Mawladin to the role of CEO and I transition back to my position as Program Director, I look forward to working with program staff teams to strengthen our services and ensure that we keep the perspectives and experience of the people we serve at the centre of all we do.
The first time I heard someone say, “we just want to go back home”, was in 1985 by a classmate from Afghanistan. It is tragic that almost 40 years later refugees continue to flood out of that country with no hope of returning. I am proud that Canada is a leader on the international stage in response to refugee crises, but we need to ensure that when people arrive, we are all – at every level of government and community services – ready and able to respond.
-Lynne Griffiths-Fulton, Director of Programs