This holiday season, there are Calgarians in need, and only other Calgarians can provide the support they need.
For the first time in the Centre for Newcomers history, the organization is making a plea to ask for help matching families with families to address urgent needs within the community.
And whether those needs come from newcomers like Ukrainians, Afghans, refugees from other nations, or even just long-time Calgarians, the centre wants to ensure that everyone gets help this season.
“People in need during this holiday season could really use some food hampers, maybe some toys for the kids, and different things like that,” said Anila Lee Yuen, President and CEO of the Centre for Newcomers.
She said that for a lot of refugees and evacuees from nations in peril, with the homeless in the city, and those struggling, the challenges of not having enough during Christmas can be devastating. Especially, said Lee Yuen, given the challenges people are facing finding housing and dealing with inflation.
“It’s really critical that people really understand that all of the things that we ourselves are facing, are felt 100 fold for people that are on fixed incomes,” she said.
The Centre is acting as a connector between families, with staff collecting lists of needs, and then sharing those with donors. The Centre will then collect donations from donors, and then transfer those back to the adopted families.
“That could be in terms of food security, that could be in terms of other types of needs, and also a little bit of cheer and a little bit of joy in their lives,” Lee Yuen said.
Calgarians can sign up to adopt-a-family on the Centre for Newcomers website at http://www.centrefornewcomers.ca.
The adopt-a-family day was launched during the inaugural Community Day of Impact. That connected newcomers to the city with services and agencies like the Calgary Public Library and Alberta Health Services.
“What we really wanted to do was at the start of the holiday season, bring all of our community partners together to be able to host different events, to be able to participate together in different workshops, and to learn and to grow together… for our community of course, especially for our Ukrainian community members and our Afghan community members, but also for the general newcomer population as well,” said Lee Yuen.
Supports available, but only if Calgarians help
Jon Yee, Vice President of Strategy for the Centre, said that so far over 200 families have signed up to receive support.
“That’s a huge need right there. It’s 200 when we launched it in the last couple of days, and we’re going to accept families until December 12, so we’re expecting a lot more families,” he said.
“Even this small token of generosity can help them a lot during the holiday season, especially when it’s so cold right now.”
One of the Centre’s newest employees is Maryna Stets, evacuated from Ukraine in June.
“It was hard in the beginning because starting a new life from scratch, it’s always not easy, but with the help of Calgarians I received resources for it, and so far I’m doing much better,” she said.
Stets, who is now working the front desk for the Centre, said that she sees people from similar situations like hers every day.
“I have about 50 people come in every day and their major request is housing, so most of them are looking for some temporary—either host family or hotel, or anything—so they can stay and just settle down, and take a deep breath and start thinking about what’s going to happen next,” Stets said.
She said that she was thankful to Calgarians for considering providing any kind of support during the holidays through the adopt-a-family program.
“I would love to thank all Calgarians, all people who are willing to help and welcome us into their family,” Stets said.
“As well as I would ask you to continue doing that to extend if it’s still possible, as that would be amazing.”
Yee said that the outcomes for so many could be dire without support and generosity of Calgarians this season.
“If Calgarians don’t step up, people go hungry, people put themselves in worse situations than they are,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on being a great Welcoming City, that there’s prosperity for everybody—and it’s just not for everybody. The most marginalized people still need our help. No matter if you’re an immigrant or local citizen.”