WoodGreen's Newcomer services help Syrian refugees settle in Canada

Language training, online and in-person housing help, no-cost child care and programs for youth support refugees new to Toronto.

In September 2015, people around the world were shocked to see a deeply troubling, tragic image of 3 year old Alan Kurdi lying dead on a beach in Turkey. His family was desperate to escape the violence in Syria. So desperate, in fact, that they boarded an overcrowded dinghy in hopes of making it safely to shore. Alan, his 5 year old brother and his mother all drowned on that journey, along with 10 other people.

That image instantaneously raised awareness in Canada about the plight of Syrians and the urgent need for action. The Government of Canada launched an ambitious refugee resettlement program, aiming to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in a few months.

The government assisted refugees would be served by COSTI Immigrant Services, but the privately sponsored refugees and their sponsors also needed settlement support to navigate the complicated process.

Providing services to
to Canada for over
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over 0 private sponsors (supported through individual and group information sessions)
We conducted 0 trips and served 0 GARs (132 families, 108 adults and 510 children) in 6 weeks

To address this gap, WoodGreen staff conducted extensive outreach to connect with private sponsors. WoodGreen developed workshops specifically for these individuals, sharing knowledge and expertise to help guide both sponsors and refugees.

To aid in the housing and settlement process, WoodGreen was funded by the City of Toronto to hire two Arabic speaking staff, and have since assisted Syrian refugees with finding secure housing, documentation support (OHIP cards, SIN cards and immunization records) and English language training.

WoodGreen, along with the donated services of Deloitte and the Konrad Group joined forces to create H.O.M.E (Housing Opportunities and Marketplace Exchange), an online portal connecting Syrian refugees with housing and resources. Based on an application built by Vlocity, H.O.M.E allows donors - both businesses and individuals - to post available housing, goods and services to help Syrian refugees arriving in Toronto. WoodGreen’s President & CEO Anne Babcock welcomed Toronto Mayor John Tory on Saturday, January 16 for the official launch of the H.O.M.E portal.

Mayor John Tory and Anne Babcock meet a refugee family at the launch of the H.O.M.E portal.

Mayor Tory, along with City Councillors Paula Fletcher, Joe Cressy and Joe Mihevc visited WoodGreen’s 1491 Danforth Avenue location for a tour of the settlement services in action and a demo of H.O.M.E. Newcomers and their families, settlement staff and media from major outlets were all on hand for the launch.

The H.O.M.E portal is being widely used by people in Toronto looking to donate, as well as by refugees in need of housing, goods and services.

The Ballani family, 26 year old father Muaz, 20 year old mother Sawsan and 3 year old son Abdulrahman arrived in Canada from Syria in February 2016.

Shortly after arriving, Muaz and Sawsan began attending WoodGreen’s literacy classes to improve their language skills. While they attend classes, their young son Abdulrahman is looked after in the Care for Newcomer Children program. Muaz and Sawsan are determined to build a new life in Canada, and WoodGreen will be there to support them through their settlement journey.

Muaz and Sawsan are determined to build a new life in Canada, and WoodGreen will be there to support them through their settlement journey.