Prince Albertans had a chance to meet some of their newest neighbours Wednesday.
The YWCA resettlement services hosted an open house at their new location, the former home of Wesley United Church, were families who recently arrived in the country could meet members of the community and share their culture.
Traditional food, music, art and dress was on display, as was an overall jovial atmosphere, as the refugees lined up to meet people in their new home. The event was held to coincide with World Refugee Day.
The refugees hailed from countries in Africa as well as South Asia, with families from Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, Congo, Pakistan and Uganda.
Many had been housed in a refugee camp for several years before finally getting the approval to come to Canada.
One such person is Amisi Mutombo. While he originally hails from Congo, he lived in a Ugandan refugee camp for five years. He moved to Canada three and a half months ago, in the middle of February and the prairie winter.
He had good things to say about his new home.
“I think the country is good and the city is also good,” he said.
“They have welcomed us very well, and they have supported us.”
The only hard part, he said, was adjusting to winter and the bitter cold. He was pleased to be a part of Wednesday’s open house.
“It’s good. We’re all refugees and we’re all from Africa, and we are sharing our culture,” he said.
Like Mutombo, Abdulkarim Mohammed arrived in February. He also came from a Ugandan refugee camp, where he lived for seven years after fleeing Sudan.
“It can be a long process,” he said. “After that, you can get a chance, now I’m feeling better,” he said of his journey.
Mohammed also said he struggled to adjust to the winter weather.
“Nothing has been difficult, just winter is very difficult for me. Everything is ok,” he said.
When he found out he would be coming to Canada, Mohammed was excited.
“I was very happy,” he said. “I like everything in Canada. Because I got a chance in Canada, it’s going to change my life.”
Mohammed said he was also happy to participate in the open house. He spoke of the refugees from many different countries coming together.
“It’s good,” he said.
Amanda Davison, the manager of settlement services with the Prince Albert YWCA, said Wednesday was an opportunity for the newcomers to host the community and share a part of themselves.
“I’m hoping the clients we serve can meet new faces in the community, but I also think it’s a great opportunity to educate the community about the situations of refugees who are arriving in Prince Albert,” she said.
The YWCA helps Government Assisted Refugees (GARS) learn the language, learn to drive, learn and settle into the community and gain employment in Prince Albert. In the 2017-2018 year, the program served 98 GARS.
The programming is there through the YWCA for refugees until they become citizens of Canada. During the 2017-18 year, the YWCA settlement services worked with 340 people, settlement workers in schools (which works with children and parents) served 260 clients and employment assisted 77.
The volunteer/community connections services, which offers additional volunteer-based skills training such as computer use, had 57 clients.
So far in April and May of this year, the program has received nine new arrivals, and assisted 201 individuals in April and 222 in May with at least one service.
Davison wanted to thank the community for its help and invite people interested in helping out to come down to learn more about the programs offered.
“We’re always looking for volunteers to mentor (refugees) and show them around the community,” she said.
For more information, visit YWCApricnealbert.ca, stop by Wesley United Church or email firstname.lastname@example.org.