South Vancouver Neighbourhood House opening doors to new Syrian members

VANCOUVER, B.C.: FEBRUARY 23, 2016— Community Connections Settlement Worker and event coordinator Koyali Burman at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Photo by LINDA NGUYEN

For newcomers, joining an established community can be daunting.

On Saturday, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House hosted the Newcomer Welcoming Event for Syrian refugees at their community centre by Victoria Drive and East 49 Avenue.

The event consisted of a general info session in their main ballroom, along with information booths from the Vancouver Public Library’s South Hill branch, giving away free library cards. Naz’s Pharmacy provided free blood sugar tests. The refugees were also given a tour of the facilities and picked up goodwill donations. The refugees are currently under temporary residency, provided by the Immigrant Services Society of British Columbia, or ISSofBC.

Over 80 Syrians attended the event, but weren’t allowed to talk to the press. The only people who would comment on their situation were a few Arabic interpreters.

The interpreters said the Syrians’ main concerns were finding permanent housing, the lack of enough Arabic speaking people in Vancouver helping them and learning how to integrate into Canadian society.

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Syrians newcomers at the Vancouver Public Library booth, where they were provided with free library cards.


Interpreter Mohamed Ahmed said, “I remembered when I came to Canada, there wasn’t that much people who were welcoming me here. I decided if I go and help, they wouldn’t be having the same feelings I had. Because when we came, no one speak Arabic.”

Koyali Burman, project coordinator of the event also said there weren’t enough resources in Arabic at the centre.

“One of the things which we are looking into creating, a pool of volunteers who can speak different languages,” Burman said. “We are creating a translators-interpreters group, so that is our first step to do that.”

According to Saleem Spindari, the manager of MOSAIC’s Refugee Settlement Support services, the number of refugees expected to be in South Vancouver is unknown.

“It does say that in Vancouver the government assisted refugees that are admitted so far, the number is 1,440.” Spindari said. “In addition to those, 41 are privately sponsored.”


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