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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.

Charity

“DRIVE-BY” TOY DRIVE AT ALL SURREY FIRE HALLS – November 25-30

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Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis and her dog Randi (foreground) bring toy donations to Saverio Lattanzio of the Surrey Firefighters Association (holding toy) and fellow firefighters.

“Make this Christmas special for Surrey families”

The Surrey Fire Fighters Association and the Surrey Christmas Bureau hope everyone will join them in a six-day toy drive to help fill its toy shelves in time for Christmas.

Each year, the Surrey Christmas Bureau helps thousands of local families by providing toys for Surrey kids. Saverio Lattanzio of the Surrey Firefighters Association said his members are ready to accept toy donations at each of Surrey’s neighbourhood fire halls from November 25-30.

“Surrey’s firefighters are looking forward to helping our community fill the Christmas Bureau’s shelves and delivering some Christmas surprises for local kids who might miss out if we all don’t help out this year,” said Lattanzio. “Through our various community programs, our firefighters know just how generous Surrey residents are throughout the year. I know our community will make this special toy drive equally successful as we all pitch in for the kids and their families. These are our neighbours and I know we can all make a difference for them this Christmas. If we do this together, we can make sure 2020 ends on a high note for so many families.”

“We’re expecting even more families this year,” added Lisa Werring, Executive Director of the Surrey Christmas Bureau. “So many families are really feeling the economic impact of the COVID virus and they’re counting on our help, so this special toy drive will really help us fill our shelves and make Christmas special for a lot of Surrey children. We’re looking for unwrapped toys for boys and girls of all ages, from infants to age 18. Then, once we’ve filled our shelves, we invite registered families to come and shop for toys for their children.”

“It’s been a particularly tough year for so many of our Surrey families,” noted Councillor Linda Annis, who supports the drive and challenges all city councillors and residents to bring a toy to their local fire hall before the end of the month. “With COVID-19 and the tough economic times facing so many people right across our community, we’re hoping Surrey will step up and help its Christmas Bureau fill its toy shelves by dropping off a toy at their nearest Surrey fire hall anytime from now until the 30th.”

Annis adds she hopes families will drive by and donate together so that it’s a family affair.

“We live in an incredible community with so much to be thankful for,” explained Annis. “This is one of those events and times when we can really help other Surrey families who are feeling the pinch because of COVID and the tough times it has delivered. It’s also a chance to show children how good it feels to help our neighbours.”

For more information about the Surrey Christmas Bureau visit online at christmasbureau.com.

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Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society announces $3.9 Million grant to the City of Surrey to support 3 major capital housing projects

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Surrey, BC – The Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society (SHHS) has granted the City of Surrey $3.9 Million to support three capital projects with long-term impact. Funding will cover renovation costs and long-term leases to support the growing needs of people experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk of homelessness in Surrey.

“We have been moving quickly to provide for the urgent needs of our residents as a result of the pandemic, but it is important that we also balance this with investments that ensure our long-term needs are addressed,” said Councillor Laurie Guerra, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society. “These funds will transition people out of homelessness in areas where it is needed most, as we continue to work towards our vision of eradicating homelessness in our City.”

The responsive grant will be distributed over 10 years to support the following capital projects:

The Olive Branch Shelter – 10732 City Parkway

The Olive Brand Shelter will provide 46 beds for men and women, with the intention of accommodating those who are currently living in the Emergency Response Centre (ERC) at the North Surrey Recreation Centre.

SHHS will cover costs of the renovation and lease for a 5-year period, so residents will remain sheltered. The Olive Branch Shelter welcomed guests on November 16, 2020.

The Cove Shelter – 10607 King George Boulevard

Providing 42 shelter beds for men and women, the SHHS grant will cover costs of the renovation and lease for a 3-year period. The opening of this shelter in November 2019 enabled individuals living in an outdoor encampment to move indoors and into shelter.

Newton Modular Housing Project – 13620 80 Avenue

SHHS will cover the costs of the lease for a 10-year period, providing 40 supportive housing units for men and women. This is part of the Province’s commitment to develop 250 new modular supportive housing units on five sites in Surrey. Completion is expected in May 2021.

As we head into colder months, the City of Surrey and SHHS want to remind residents of Surrey’s participation in the Provincial Extreme Weather Response (EWR) program run by BC Housing. As a result of the pandemic, shelters are following the Covid-19 safety protocols, including physical distancing.

When an Extreme Weather Response Alert is announced, to date, the following overnight shelter locations will be available in Surrey:

Nightshift Ministries (10635 King George Blvd) provides shelter for women, from 9pm to 7am.

PCRS (10453 Whalley Blvd.) provides youth, aged 13 to 21 years, shelter from 8pm to 8am.

Fleetwood Church (9165 160th Street) provides shelter for men and women from 8pm to 7am.

Shamai House (13327 100A Avenue) provides shelter for women, from 8pm to 7am.

The City is working closely with BC Housing and Fraser Health to identify additional locations for overnight shelters. An update will be provided soon.

Additionally, the following shelter locations are open every night, regardless of weather conditions, until March 31, 2021:

Pacific Community Church (5337 180th Street) offers men and women shelter from 10pm to 7am.

Peace Portal Church (15128 27B Ave.) offers shelter for men and women from 8pm to 7am.

About the Provincial EWR Program

The Provincial EWR Program is intended to provide time-limited, temporary, overnight shelter spaces. EWR sites open in response to inclement weather events during which the health and safety of homeless people living outside is at risk. Since 2005, BC Housing has contracted the Homelessness Services Association of BC to manage the EWR program in Vancouver and Surrey.

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Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society Grants $600,000 for Local COVID-19 Response

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Councillor Laurie Guerra, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.

Surrey, BC – The Surrey Homelessness & Housing Society (SHHS) has granted $350,000 in funding to 11 projects to implement food programs, purchase safety equipment, create homes and improve housing. The swift response addresses the emerging needs of people experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk of homelessness in Surrey related to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The investment comes on the heels of $250,000 in grants earlier this spring, which provided 19 projects funding to support charitable organizations deploy food programs, purchase emergency equipment and supplies, and bolster staff capacity.

“The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on charitable organizations providing vital services for Surrey’s most vulnerable,” said Councillor Laurie Guerra, President of the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.

“This funding will ensure that we can continue to address the growing need for food programs, emergency supplies and strengthen operations both now and into the new year.”

A total of $350,000 in grants were awarded to the following organizations:

  • Afro-Canadian Positive Network Society of BC
  • Atira Women’s Resource Society
  • Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver
  • Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association
  • Fraserside Community Services Society
  • Lookout Housing and Health Society
  • Nightshift Street Ministries
  • Pacific Community Resources Society
  • Phoenix Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Society
  • SOS Children’s Village of BC
  • Sources Community Resources Society

Learn more about the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society here.

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Fruiticana Raises $100,000 For Surrey Hospitals Foundation’s Children’s Health Centre Campaign

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Photo: Fruiticana, one of Western Canada’s largest grocery chains,
has raised $100,000 for the Surrey Hospitals Foundation’s Children’s Health Centre renewal campaign. (From left) Puneet Dhillon, Community Liaison Coordinator, Surrey Hospitals Foundation; Harp Dhillon, Vice Chair, SHF Board of Directors; Sonia Virk, Director, SHF Board of Directors; Tony Singh, President, Fruiticana; Azra Hussain, Chief Operating Officer, Surrey Hospitals Foundation; Don Hickling , Vice President, Leadership Giving, Surrey Hospitals Foundation

Surrey, B.C. (October 23, 2020) – Fruiticana, one of Western Canada’s largest grocery chains, has raised $100,000 for the Surrey Hospitals Foundation’s Children’s Health Centre renewal campaign. Fruiticana raised the money from two in-store fundraising campaigns throughout the year in celebration of Diwali and Vaisakhi. A cheque presentation was held yesterday at the Fruiticana headquarters in Surrey.

As one of the Foundation’s first Community Champions, Fruiticana has continued to give generously to the Foundation’s fundraising campaigns. The Community Champions program was launched in 2019 to spark interest amongst philanthropic businesses who are looking for creative ways to give back to their community.

The Children’s Health Centre at Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) is the only health facility in the Fraser Health region dedicated to children’s health and paediatric emergencies, including children’s surgery and cancer programs. SMH has the region’s only children’s emergency department, one of only two in British Columbia. The Children’s Health Centre treats 43 per cent of B.C.’s children who reside in the Fraser Health region, and treated 46,000 children in 2019.

The Foundation is working with the community to raise $6 million to transform the Children’s Health Centre, to add and expand new clinics and services including Neurology, Cardiology & Nephrology (kidney).

About Surrey Hospitals Foundation:

Surrey Hospitals Foundation is the largest non-government funder of health care for families in Surrey and surrounding Fraser Valley communities. The Foundation supports the major health facilities in the region, Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH) and Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre (JPOCSC), as well as numerous specialized programs for newborns, children, adults and seniors.

The Foundation invests in the future of health care by funding innovative research in Surrey that can lead to medical breakthroughs. https://surreyhospitalsfoundation.com

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Community comes together to ease food insecurity concerns for newcomers

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DIVERSEcity Newcomer Food Hamper program in Surrey launches with support from partner organizations

Food insecurity remains a significant concern during COVID-19. DIVERSEcity’s Newcomer Food Hamper program, generously supported by several partner organizations in Surrey, is trying to help by distributing food hampers to low-income families in Surrey.

With $35,000 from the United Way’s Local Love Food Hub funding, DIVERSEcity’s Newcomer Food Hub is working in partnership with the Surrey Urban Farmers Market ordering produce from the market, paid for through the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Coupon Program). The fresh produce is then organized into hampers, along with additional food supplied from Sources Food Hub.

The hampers are then put together by DIVERSEcity staff and volunteers in partnership with Seeds of Change, working (physically distanced!) from their City of Surrey-sponsored location, the City Centre parkade. (Seeds of Change is supporting several food hubs across Surrey through United Way funding.)

Staff and volunteers came together Saturday, August 8, to sort, fill and distribute hampers. The group was happy but dedicated in their efforts, as they worked hard all morning, despite the rainy weather. Serious co-ordination was needed to ensure each hamper was filled correctly, including abiding by any food restrictions the clients may have.

Leo Ramirez, DIVERSEcity’s Community Kitchen Coordinator, who is organizing DIVERSEcity’s efforts, says, “I love that this is a group effort supporting the community. We are thankful to the many organizations, volunteers and staff that come together to make this work.”

One of those on the front lines was Surrey Urban Farmers Market market manager Anna Hall, who was also grateful to all the partners working together for this important initiative. She explained, “This food hub ensures that these families continue to get the fresh produce and food that they need every week.”

While most food hampers are delivered to families directly, some clients did stop by on Saturday to pick theirs up personally. Their smiling faces and gratitude were just another reminder of how important the team’s efforts were. The food hamper program launched July 25 and will continue to run for 10 to 12 weeks; about 50 hampers have already been sorted and distributed to low-income families, seniors and pregnant women.

“It’s been really valuable learning about how to build good partnerships in food access and food security work,” says Fiona Stevenson, manager of Volunteer & Community Programs, DIVERSEcity. “By partnering with Seeds of Change, we have access to the temporary site in the City Centre parkade each week, and we are also able to get additional items of recovered food from Sources Food Hub to add to all the hampers.

This support through the City of Surrey and Seeds of Change and Surrey Urban Farmers Market has been instrumental to venue, logistics, food access, permissions, staffing and more.” For more information, see www.dcrs.ca or contact kitchen@dcrs.ca.

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