United Way Winnipeg Launches HelpRefugees.ca
WINNIPEG, MB. — United Way Winnipeg has launched HelpRefugees.ca during an update on the urgent need for help with a recent surge of refugee claimants coming to Winnipeg.
For the past two weeks, United Way volunteers have been talking with community partners and agencies to better understand the challenges created by a rapidly growing number of refugee claimants, and ways to involve and connect Winnipeggers wanting to help.
“The number of people arriving is unprecedented given the cold weather,” says Immigration Partnership Winnipeg coordinator Abdi Ahmed.
“We expect we will see more families arrive once the weather warms. That’s why it’s so important to come together as a community to share insights and experience and to coordinate resources now more than ever.”
“United Way donors already provide ongoing stability for 23 community agencies that support newcomer and refugee families,” says United Way Winnipeg CEO Connie Walker.
“That support has made it possible for these agencies to help as many people as they do every day and every year. But the reality today is that an influx of refugee claimants has overwhelmed these agencies and that should concern everyone.”
“We realized what was missing was an easy way for people to help,” says Walker.
“We also saw a need to coordinate donations of all kinds.”
HelpRefugees.ca provides a central site to donate money with confidence, knowing United Way will work closely with community partners to ensure every dollar of their donation goes where it’s needed most and will make the biggest difference.
“There are other ways to help as well,” says United Way’s Community Investment Committee chair Dr. Jodene Baker.
“People and organizations interested in collecting and donating things like food, clothing, personal care items and feminine hygiene products can visit UnitedWayWinnipeg.ca for an up-to-date list of the most needed items and information on other ways to get involved, including volunteering.
“Needs are changing by the day, and by coordinating this information, we can help people understand the most current needs to ensure they are able to make the biggest difference while minimizing efforts that could be counter-productive,” says Baker.
In recent years, community agencies at the front lines of caring for newcomers have been asking for more help to support a growing number of refugee and immigrant families coming to Winnipeg – an estimated 3000 in 2016 alone; twice the number of previous years.
United Way acknowledges that while this is a complicated issue with differing opinions on how to approach it as a city, province and country, the response is driven only by the fact that there is a real and urgent human need in our city, and that there are people and organizations that stand ready to help.
“This is not about prioritizing one need in our community over another,” says Baker.
“No one, including community agencies, is putting one group ahead of another. As always they are finding a way to do more and go further, but there’s only so far they can go without breaking. This is about mobilizing our compassion and humanity to go further as a community to ensure that doesn’t happen.”
Walker closed the program by emphasizing, “Today in Winnipeg there are families who are scared and alone; strangers in a new country. Together, we can welcome these families and surround them with love, understanding and hope as they start their journey to build a better life for themselves.”
Sitti Ali, a refugee claimant from Djibouti, knows the desperate situations refugees face, and how hope for a better life sustains them as they embark on uncertain and dangerous journeys to reach Manitoba.
“We are grateful that we’ve been welcomed by Winnipeggers. It’s made such a difference for us and now we are helping other newcomers feel welcome.”
“The first 30 days are the most critical,” says Ahmed.
“After that, those who receive a refugee hearing can apply for work permits and get help to become more independent.”
Photo – Handout