Adjusting to a new home, new culture and a new language is tough at the best of times for many newcomers to Canada but, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges can seem insurmountable. That’s why the Global Gathering Place (GGP) has worked hard to connect Saskatoon’s most vulnerable refugees.
GGP has secured funding through the $1 million Cameco COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Division of Social Accountability’s Community Reciprocity Fund at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine. The $15,500 is being used to buy tablets and provide Wi-Fi connections. It will allow refugees to connect with others and access essential services including literacy courses they need right now. The tablets also mean children within these families can continue the vital school instruction alongside other Saskatchewan children.
“Allowing these vulnerable clients to continue learning and connect with teachers, friends and family here and around the globe, it’s crucial,” says Lori Steward, GGP’s Refugee and Case Coordination Manager. “These tablets will be a lifeline.”
GGP is a local settlement organization that provides services to immigrants and refugees. When the pandemic hit, GGP moved rapidly to put many of its services online. While these efforts have been successful, staff recognized there was a gap in reaching the most vulnerable newcomers. Refugees to Canada often arrive with limited knowledge of the English language and generally lower levels of education and literacy compared to other immigrants.
The first tablets have been given out to refugee families and individuals from Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, and Bhutan. One household, a single parent family of six received the tablet and training with enthusiasm. This tablet allows the mother to start attending GGP’s Literacy classes again and keep learning English. Her children too can continue their schooling.
Another recipient, a young refugee woman who arrived to Saskatoon alone, was feeling isolated and cut-off. Receiving a tablet meant she was able to rejoin programs and her English classes where she’s able to connect with others to learn together, laugh and share.
This program is giving families a little reassurance during this trying time and letting some of Saskatoon’s newest residents know they are not alone.