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Lack Of Services For African Youth Immigrants In Surrey Addressed By Surrey Youth

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Big dreams. When you’re an immigrant moving to a new country in search of a better future, you pack those dreams into whatever suitcases you can reasonably take with you. You carry those dreams onto the airplane, and hope with all your might that the cards will fall in your favour, that saying farewell to everything you know will one day lead to the kind of life you wish to give yourself and your family. And when you land on new soil, you pray for a guardian angel to carry you into your new life.

Bienvenue Osee, a 22 year old immigrant from Democratic Republic of Congo, and his partners Blaise Kisembo and Baracka Mugisa, hope to fan some of those dreams and be that safe space for immigrants from their home continent.

Osee and his partners have a mission to help African youth integrate into their new Canadian home. Their notion of youth helping youth with this transition is fresh and hopeful – and a way of giving back for these young entrepreneurs. Noting that African immigrants and refugees are often members of low-income communities which leaves them vulnerable, marginalized and often disadvantaged, Osee and his partners want to do what they can to empower these individuals.

When Osee arrived in Canada as a 13 year old, French-speaking boy, there were many barriers he had to overcome to fit in and become a productive citizen of Surrey. Language was one. Understanding cultural norms, navigating transit, fitting into the school culture, making friends…these were all just the tip of the iceberg when it came to integration. It was difficult, but Osee was determined to see his family’s big dreams come to fruition. Now, he’d like to give his time to help others do the same.

“Many youth within this community segment are considered to be multi-barriered – not having the language, computer nor social skills coupled with the lack of Canadian work experience – to integrate smoothly into the mainstream Canadian society,” Osee explained. “These barriers ultimately prohibit immigrant and refugee youth from competing confidently for often scarce employment opportunities.” Being unable to compete in today’s job market leads to the perpetual cycle of poverty and vulnerability which Osee hopes to break with a new project.

The project addresses the lack of services and programs for African youth (ages 15-25) and would include: a space for new and recent immigrants to gather to have discussions about civic engagement, an area for learning computer skills, and volunteers who partner with youth to teach them about local culture and life skills like grocery shopping, using transit, preparing for job interviews, and applying for university. While some programs exist in Surrey for adults, Osee strongly believes that a society of youth helping youth gives this vulnerable age group a chance at connection.

Osee is hoping to partner with existing facilities like Surrey Parks & Recreation to offer discounted memberships for new immigrants. His project would also like to take youth to the Surrey Libraries and facilitate the process of getting a new library card.

What they are still looking for is a physical space, preferably in the City Central or Guildford area, where they can host a group of people who want to use computers, hold support groups and discussions and work with professionals on their computer skills and resumes. In addition, they are hoping that electronics stores or members of the public who have older computers would be willing to donate their used electronics.

While the focus is on African youth immigrants, the services would also be open to immigrants from other countries.

If you can help Osee and his partners further their initiative, or you are a recent or new immigrant youth to Surrey who could use some support, please contact Bienvenue Osee at bienvenue1@live.ca or 604-368-9228.

Taslim combines her love of writing and social change by telling the stories that build bridges among people. Her motivating forces are her 3 children and her INFJ personality. Taslim is a regular contributor to Huffington Post Canada and Yummy Mummy Club, and a columnist for Peace Arch News. She has romantic notions of travel writing across European countrysides and historic African towns but her heart belongs to Surrey, B.C. You can connect with Taslim on Twitter and Instagram @taslimjaffer.

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The 50 Women of Options: Shelly Howard

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Shelly Howard, Partner development manager in the technology sector. 

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are, and your background? 

My name is Shelly Howard. As someone who has always been interested in the power of innovation, I have spent my entire career working with some of the leading IT companies in North America. I have helped many customers and partners leverage technology to drive new and improved business outcomes in my sales and market development capacity.

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? 

I am a Business Development Manager in the Technology Sector. 

What achievements in your life are you most proud of?

My greatest achievement is producing two amazing human beings. Both my children are now off away at university figuring out their path and creating their own life adventure.

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? 

When I first learned about Options Community Services, I was amazed at how many services the organization provided the Delta, Surrey and the Langley community.  I am passionate about helping children who are ageing out of government care and was inspired by the number of programs that Options have helped these kids transition out of care.  Finding affordable housing is one important step and currently it is difficult to come by in the Delta, Surrey, and Langley area.  This is why this affordable housing project is so incredibly important.  It addresses a huge gap in our community.

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The 50 Women of Options: Linda Hepner

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Linda Hepner, former mayor of Surrey.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are and your background? *

My name is Linda Hepner. Now retired after a full career of representing Surrey as a manager with the city, a three-term city councillor and finally as the mayor, I am passionate about looking for ways to help and improve the lives of the people of Surrey. 

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with?

I am the former mayor of Surrey, BC.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of?

Honorary Firefighter recognized for decades of support; Chair of city’s 2010 Olympic celebrations that resulted in Award for most family-focussed city; individual housing plan that saw long-standing 135A tent city dismantled and all occupants housed over 72 hours.  

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? 

There are many families in Surrey living at or below the poverty line and there’s a great need for affordable housing. There are more children in Surrey than anywhere else in the province, and many vulnerable families—particularly new immigrants—who require the services Options provides more critically.

 

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Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Luisa Hough

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Luisa Hough, Mortgage Professional, and Partner at Verico Xeva Mortgage.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are, and your background? 

My name is Luisa Hough, Since 2004, I  have worked as a Mortgage Professional, helping people with their mortgages and getting them into their homes as well as working with them on their financial goals. I am the co-founder of Xeva Mortgage where our focus is to inspire, lead, guide and achieve and make a positive impact on people’s lives.

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? 

I am a Mortage Professional and Partner at Verico Xeva Mortgage.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of?

I  have two big achievements in life that I am most proud of – first and foremost my family – my daughter who just finished her first year at University in Arizona and her personal achievement and commitment to school and sports is something I am most proud of. My Son whose sole focus is school and hockey with great ambitions of becoming an Orthodontist. My second most prideful achievement is what I have accomplished in my business – I never thought that 17 years ago I would be where I am today with my business. My dedication, commitment, values, and relationships I have built over the years has led me to helping hundreds of families achieve their financial goals and purchase their dream homes.  

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? *

As a young woman, I faced some challenges along with adversity and it’s important for me to support other women who need help as well. There’s no comparison for what these women are going through or have gone through and being part of a good organization that helps and provides people with the tools to move past their circumstances and thrive in their lives. Affordable housing is a necessity and it promotes diversity, creates jobs, builds communities and provides people with stability.

What are your social media handles? *

Instagram

Facebook

What is your web address?

www.xeva.ca

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The 50 Women of Options: Rebecca Darnell

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Rebecca Darnell, Lawyer at DLG Darnell Law Group.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are, and your background? *

My name is Rebecca Darnell. Before attending law school, I honed my skills in banking, as a court recorder/transcriber, and as a freelance paralegal at several law firms. This exposed me to a wide variety of practice areas including complex commercial litigation, corporate, commercial, family law, personal injury, estates, and real estate transactions. Immediately on being called to the bar, I set out to chart my own course. Recognizing a need for experienced family lawyers in the Fraser Valley community, I opened my own law firm and was able to draw upon my extensive background and training. I am certified by the Law Society of BC as a Family Mediator and Arbitrator and am committed to alternative dispute resolution.

 What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? *

I am a lawyer at DLG Darnell Law Group.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of? *

The relationships that I have built over the last 25 years with clients and the community. I am proud of being able to assist those in extraordinary experiences. 

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? *

I watched my mother die in poverty and recognize the need for affordable housing in the community. In addition, my work in family law has shown me how many women are trapped in unhealthy or abusive relationships because they don’t have the economic means to leave. Having a home validates you and makes you feel like you belong. I believe when you belong in a community then you’re better able to succeed. And when you’re successful the community is also successful.

 What are your social media handles? *

Instagram

What is your web address?

https://dlglangley.com/

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Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Christine Mohr

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On February 17th, Options Community Services launched its first capital fundraising campaign to raise $1.5 million for affordable housing units. The money is currently being raised through a partnership with 50 local women, all of who have pledged to raise $25,000 each in support of this project. Surrey 604 is encouraging public support of this project by featuring each of the 50 Women of options. Today we introduce Christine Mohr, the CEO of Options Community Services.

Tell us your name, a bit about who you are, and your background? 

My name is Christine Mohr. I have had my hands in social services work since I was 15 years old. For many years before joining the organization, I admired the can-do attitude of Options and how its services address the full gamut of what happens in people’s lives.

What is your job title/what company or organization are you with? 

I am the CEO of Options Community Services. 

What achievements in your life are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of my family. Alongside my husband, we have raised two wonderful young people who both have careers in the helping fields. I am also proud to be working alongside the most amazing people at Options who bring their talents, gifts, passion, and everything that they do to support and build community. 

Why did the Women of Options affordable housing campaign resonate with you? Why are you supporting this initiative? 

I know the impact that the inability to access affordable housing has on people’s sense of security and well-being. Every day, the Options staff see people struggling to find affordable, quality, safe housing where they can live and just be. Once people have the security of a safe home that they can afford, often other things also fall in place.

Learn more about the Women of Options and make a donation to this important cause by visiting the website: Women Of Options

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