“Befriending newcomers is such a rewarding experience and I feel I am doing something really worthwhile and purposeful,” said Jackie Hassefras, a KEYS family team volunteer.
During the month of December, KEYS Job Centre will welcome 45 people from a variety of countries including Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. This is par for the course for the team at KEYS, who have seen more than 250 refugees arrive in the past two years. Along with Kingston Community Health Centres (KCHC), the necessary supports are in place to assist these newcomers to find homes and settle in their new community.
Volunteers and donors play a big role in welcoming the government-assisted refugees that arrive via KEYS, and both are essential to the success of newcomers’ transition from their old homes to their new homes, according to Madeleine Nerenberg, manager of newcomer services.
“We really couldn’t do it without the financial and volunteer support from the community,” she said.
Supporting refugee families through their transition and to helping them with everyday tasks is a major part of what volunteers do for the new Kingstonians. It’s a neighbourly role, helping to draw newcomers into the community and build friendships. A volunteer can help a newcomer fit into the community by assisting with shopping and learning about Kingston, enjoying social conversation, and activities such as going to the library, swimming, or going out for tea and coffee. These things help build confidence of someone who has never experienced the Canadian day-to-day life before. Volunteer commitments are six months to a year and new volunteer orientations occur every month. Volunteers can register for an orientation session online.
KEYS is looking for at least 30 new volunteers to help families.
For those who don’t have the time to volunteer, another way to help newcomers is through donations of money or gift cards. While KEYS is grateful for all donations, they are not able to accept offers of food, clothing and furniture at this time. As a registered charity, KEYS can issue receipts for donations over $20. Donors can be sure that every dollar they give will be directed to address newcomer needs. Cash, cheque and online donations will go into a fund to support newcomers. Gift cards let the newcomers buy the groceries or goods that suit their family needs.
Online donations can be made through Canada Helps. Donations of funds and gift cards can also be brought in to the KEYS office at 182 Sydenham Street, Kingston.