198 government-sponsored Afghan refugees arrived in Abbotsford on September 15th and Sept 18th.
This is the first large group of Afghans from a special charter to arrive in Abbotsford. Archway Community Services holds the contract to provide services to all Government-Assisted Refugees (GARs) settling in the Fraser Valley.
The Government of Canada made a commitment to welcome at least 40,000 refugees and vulnerable Afghans to Canada and over the past year, more than 19,000 individuals have already arrived.
“Abbotsford has historically been a very welcoming place for newcomers,” said Manpreet Grewal, Director of Multicultural and Immigrant Integration Services at Archway. “We have a large population of Mennonite settlers and churches which have sponsored waves of refugees for decades.”
Archway staff with care packages including colouring pages for the children.
Archway has been helping support newcomers since the 1970s when the Indochinese refugees (previously known as “boat people”) began arriving. Since then, there has been a burgeoning South Asian community which primarily came under family class or the economic immigrant categories.
Archway welcomed large groups of Syrians refugees starting in 2016 and 157 displaced Ukrainian individuals in 2022 so far.
The new Afghans refugees were greeted by staff from the Archway Resettlement Assistance program (RAP) who arranged for temporary accommodations in various hotels in the Fraser Valley.
The BC Muslim Association donated and delivered hampers and hot meals for the first two days. The Archway Food Bank will help with providing continued food to supplement the food allowance.
One of the welcoming teams with donated food and supplies.
Staff are conducting needs assessment to see what support is needed in each case. RAP staff help the individuals with; health care, life skills, resources available, banking, filling out essential paperwork and forms as well as connecting them to other settlement services for up to six weeks.
After the initial support through RAP, refugees will be supported by various programs in the Pathways to Integration Services department at Archway. Settlement Workers will assist with the registration and integration of children and youth into schools. Adults who need English language classes will be connected to the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program.
“Moving to a new country is extremely stressful especially when you add a potential language barrier. This is all magnified by the trauma that Afghan refugees have gone through from the war and living in refugee camps,” said Donna Lo, Manager of Archway Pathways to Integration department.
“We know it will take time for these individuals to adjust to life in a new country, but we also know that they are resilient. We’ve seen how well the refugees from Syria have integrated into their new community and in time we expect to see the same.”
“This is a huge undertaking and we’re thankful to have so many staff and volunteers willing to help welcome this group,” said Grewal. “Our community was so generous and helpful when the Syrian refugees arrived in 2016 and we look forward to all working together again.”
“We know it will take time for these individuals to adjust to life in a new country, but we also know that they are resilient.
“We’ve seen how well the refugees from Syria have integrated into their new community and in time we expect to see the same.”
How You Can Help
Those wishing to help support the refugees financially can call 604-859-7681 or visit Archway.ca/Refugees. These funds will help cover shortfalls in funding for items like rental damage deposits and initial expenses like purchasing clothing, cookware and other household necessities.
“After being displaced and living in refugee camps for years, families are arriving with very few possessions or funds,” said Grewal. “They are starting over in a new country and we want to help them have the best start possible.”
“After being displaced and living in refugee camps for years, families are arriving with very few possessions or funds. They are starting over in a new country and we want to help them have the best start possible.”