As of January 2017, over 40,000 Syrians have been resettled in Canada – and up to this point, the focus has largely been on the magnitude of this one number. But for the people whose job it is to ensure that refugees are thriving in their new country, this number is measured one family at a time.
In discussions of the refugee experience, there is an understanding that the resettlement process will be difficult. There are many challenges that most newcomers to Canada will face - from learning to speak a new language, to finding a place to live, to getting a good job. On top of that, arriving Syrians will have their own unique stories – with different backgrounds, different educational levels, and unfortunately, different traumas.
With such a diverse community, and with so many facets to building a new life in a new country, how does each refugee get the support they need? Enter Nabila and Sabrin – two Settlement Workers who are playing a crucial role in helping Syrian refugees build new lives in Toronto.
When Sabrin, who is originally from Israel but received a Social Services degree in Canada, saw that so many Syrians would be arriving in Toronto, she thought to herself, “I speak Arabic. I could do this. I want to be part of this process.” Together with Nabila, who has a Master’s Degree in Social Work, the two were hired by NYCH to deliver settlement services to Syrians.
In NYCH’s work with Syrian refugees, much like its other programs and services, staff members try to be responsive to the needs of the community. This has led to Nabila and Sabrin working from various locations, travelling across the city to meet with their clients. "We have a great amount of flexibility in our work. We go to where people are...we listen to the families and respond however we can."
With their knowledge of the language and the culture, Nabila and Sabrin act as the bridge between the Syrian community and the support networks, school system, and other institutions in Canada. "We do a lot of talking with school staff, for example, to tell them the backstory of what Syrian families have experienced and why they might be hesitant to do certain things, why children might be acting the way they are, etc."
They get to know each family they work with, and support them through individual issues as they arise. They speak with school principals if Syrian students struggle in the classroom. They connect parents who are looking for work to local employment support programs. They advocate for families if they need financial assistance.
"Now that the families are here, they are eager to move on. They want to progress in their new communities." Ultimately, Nabila and Sabrin are there to understand the hopes and aspirations each refugee has for the future – and do everything they can to help them get there.
Learn more about NYCH's services for refugees
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