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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: Judy Higginbotham

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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 Judy Higginbotham, former Surrey City Councillor.

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

My name is Judy Higginbotham and I served as a City Councillor for 25 years. In addition, I taught for 10 years, worked in the media as a broadcaster, writer/editor for 5 years, and have been a retired volunteer where I work in many groups and supporting many projects. 

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

I am retired and an active volunteer, advocate, solution finder, mentor, coach, and motivator. 

What achievements in your life are you most proud of? 

Receiving a National Award for Crime Prevention from the Solicitor General in the early 1990s.

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

Options Community Services gets projects done and runs them well. They believe in helping people get back on their feet. 

What are your social media handles? 

Twitter

Facebook

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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Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Rosemary Wallace

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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 Rosemary Wallace, City Councillor, Langley & Local Artist. 

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

My name is Rosemary Wallace! My background is in my achievements, which I see as opportunities to connect to people, places, and the environment. I am the second oldest of a family of 12, a mother to 7, grandmother to 5. I have been engaged in the arts and community as far back as I can remember. I love nature and helping those to connect to it through arts and wellness. I have belonged to many organizations and currently a director of the Langley School District Foundation. 

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

I am the Langley City Councillor and a Langley City Local Artist.

What achievements in your life are you most proud of?

I am proud of a lot of achievements. The first being a mother and grandmother. Secondly, my service to Langley City as a City Councillor and once a Langley Township School Trustee. I have volunteered 3/4 of my life in East Vancouver where I grew up and in Langley where I moved to 25 years ago. I am proud of my commitment to the community in helping in the arts, culture, and coaching sports when my children were in school. I am also proud of piloting a small arts centre that afforded all ages to take part in programming. This included structuring a wide range of artists’ spaces and a gallery. I once owned a gallery for a short time “Freedom Arts Collective.” There are so many things to be proud of but connecting and supporting community and family is most rewarding. Volunteering at “Joe’s Back Door Soup Kitchen ” in Langley City for 15 years was very rewarding because of the friendship and understanding that I built while supporting the needs of those that struggled with loneliness and vulnerability. I am also proud to work alongside others in protecting the environment, especially youth.

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

It is a unique way to raise funds for affordable housing for individuals struggling to find housing. I love the idea of 50 women collectively coming together to help with such a worthy cause with the support of a well-organized campaign. I am supporting this initiative because there is a great need for affordable housing and there are too many barriers that get in the way of finding decent housing. Options is an organization that has and continues to help meet the diverse needs of individuals and families in so many valuable ways. There are so many stories of individual struggles that are so complex. It is important to listen, have compassion and do whatever possible to help. This is a way to help and in turn, maybe the success of this campaign could be carried out across other municipalities that are struggling to build affordable housing to meet the needs of so many individuals. 

What are your social media handles? 

Instagram

Facebook

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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Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Raj Arneja

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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 Raj Arneja, Author and Director of Corporate Engagement & Philanthropy at Nanak Foods. 

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

I am Raj Arneja. I love music, traveling, and meeting people. I recently published a memoir, depicting my journey to motherhood through adoption. My story is filled with resilience and inspiration as I traveled to find my unconditional loves of my life – my children. 

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

Director of Corporate Engagement & Philanthropy, Nanak Foods.

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

Becoming an Author of my book Love at First Sight, A Mother’s Journey to Adoption was my most gratifying achievement. Also, I am proud to have been part of some community projects locally and abroad. 

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

I believe that in order for any community to thrive, people need a decent place to live. These days, it’s getting more and more difficult to find affordable housing so it’s initiatives like the Options’ affordable housing project that allows people to secure housing and be part of a community.

What are your social media handles? *

Instagram

Facebook

LinkedIn

What is your website:

www.rajarneja.com 

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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Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Louise McKnight

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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 Louise McKnight, Associate Broker, Team McKnight/Macdonald Realty, and former co-owner of Bay Realty.

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

My name is Louise McKnight and I have lived in the South Surrey/White Rock area for almost 35 years. I have raised my children here and feel so fortunate to call the Peninsula my home.

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

I am a Real Estate Agent with Macdonald Realty.

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

As a mom, I am most proud of raising beautiful children. Also, of supporting my community in many ways over the years that I have lived here.

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

Options support some of the most vulnerable in our community. Everyone needs a soft place to fall and Options provide that soft spot for many.

What are your social media handles? *

Instagram

Facebook

What is your website:

www.team-mcknight.com

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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Charity

The 50 Women of Options: Laura Ballance

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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 Laura Ballance, president of Laura Ballance Media Group (LBMG).

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

My name is Laura Ballance. I’m the President of Laura Ballance Media Group. We are a local PR, media, and advertising agency that works with great local businesses, national and international businesses. We are most known for our event work, and we are proud of our deep relationships with some of the best not-for-profit and charitable organizations in the province and country. 

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

I am the President of Laura Ballance Media Group (LBMG).

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

Professionally, our work on the 2010 Winter Olympics, the UN World Urban Forum, TOIFA, the PNE. I was honoured to receive the 40 under 40 awards as well as being a finalist for the Women of Distinction Award. I’m also very proud to donate $100,000 in time and money annually to not for profits and charities across our region and country.

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

I believe in giving back in the community where you have a direct connection, where you can use your time to advocate for change where required and have a more hands-on approach to gifting. I believe this campaign will move the bar in our region within the space.

What are your social media handles? *

Twitter 

Instagram

What is your website:

https://lbmg.ca/

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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