New fund to help groups working to resettle Afghan, other refugees in Waterloo region

There's a new fund to raise money for groups in Waterloo region that are helping to resettle Afghan and other refugees in the community.

'There's a lot of work that goes into supporting refugees coming into our community,' says Tara Bedard

Afghan refugees who supported Canada’s mission in Afghanistan wait to board buses after arriving in Canada at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont., on Aug. 13. (Cpl. Rachael Allen/Canadian Forces Combat Camera/Handout via Reuters)

Individuals looking to help refugees coming to Waterloo region this year, including those from Afghanistan, can donate money to a new fund that will provide cash to organizations working to resettle people in the community.

The fund is a joint project between the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation, the Cambridge and North Dumfries Community Foundation, and the Immigration Partnership of Waterloo Region. 

The Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation started the fund by donating $20,000.

Elizabeth Heald, the group's president and CEO, said she has heard from community members and groups wanting to help.

"In 2016, the community really came together to support the Syrian refugees and as part of that effort, we partnered with Immigration Partnership, and we're honoured to do that again," Heald said in an interview.

"We're hoping to inspire and encourage other Waterloo region residents to donate to this fund as well and help support the work of Immigration Partnership and organizations that welcome newcomers to our community."

The fund, called the Immigration Partnership Fund for Immigrant and Refugee Initiatives, will accept donations through the end of this year, and the money will be distributed to community groups. A link to donate is on the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation website.

Help groups tailor programs to needs

Tara Bedard, executive director of Immigration Partnership, said the fund is an important way for people to support the work that takes place in the community daily to help refugees start a new life in Waterloo region.

"There's a lot of work that goes into supporting refugees coming into our community and there are ... gaps in the funding and the programs then that are able to be active in the community at any given time," Bedard said. 

"With the volume of people we anticipate coming into this community, this [funding] will allow us to open up to the organizations that are working with people coming into the community the opportunity to start new programming, or be more flexible in what they're able to offer so that they're able to really tailor what they're doing to the needs of the families that are arriving in the region."

Bedard said Waterloo region is a generous community and saw people reaching out as soon as the federal government announced it would resettle 20,000 people from Afghanistan to Canada.

"We're just trying with our partners to assess what the needs actually are as families start to arrive in the community," she said.


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