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City, churches work to welcome newcomers

Picnic and driving program aim to help immigrants settle in

By: Amy Crofts

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 09, 2014 06:00 am

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Where to find an apartment, a family doctor and a health card, are some questions immigrants have when they settle in St. Albert.

But those aren’t the only ones. Where is a good place to meet friends for coffee? Where can you buy favourite foods from the motherland?

To help answer those questions, the City of St. Albert teamed up with several churches and non-profits last fall and formed the St. Albert Welcoming Community Committee.

“The issue emerged last summer; people had concerns that temporary foreign workers or contract workers needed information and weren’t getting it,” said Leanne MacMillan, community development coordinator with the city.

After a successful information session was held for temporary foreign workers, the committee sat down and hammered out ways they could make St. Albert more welcoming for newcomers, explained MacMillan.

The committee includes the Community Information & Volunteer Centre, Salvation Army Community Services, St. Albert Food Bank & Community Village, St. Albert Public Library, STAR Literacy and several church ministries.

One of the committee’s key priorities was how to get information about affordable housing, medical clinics, transportation and recreational activities, out and easy to access.

They put together a pamphlet and launched it at a newcomers’ picnic in June.

About 40 people attended. A representative from the Library Settlement Services program was there to answer questions and made referrals, said MacMillan. Newcomers have already shown interest in helping to host the next event.

“It was very informal … and through word of mouth. We just wanted people to come and be able to ask questions,” she said.

Even the seemingly simple things such as setting up a bank account or going to the walk-in clinic, can be difficult for newcomers to understand, said Grace Lumbab, with Jesus Rock of Ages Ministry, one of the committee members.

Sixty per cent of the church’s congregation is made up of temporary foreign workers. The majority are from the Philippines.

“Canada is the land of milk and honey,” said Lumbab. “They come here hoping they will become permanent residents, then citizens. It’s their dream to come here and a blessing for many.”

The goal of the non-denominational ministry is to support temporary foreign workers, said Lumbab.

Along with the other churches, they are spearheading a volunteer driving program to start up in July.

A shuttle will take newcomers to Canada Place in Edmonton the first and third Tuesdays of every month so they can get their work permits and important documents sorted out.

On the second and fourth Tuesdays, the shuttle will go to ethnic grocery stores Lucky Supermarket on 127 Street and T&T Supermarket on 137 Avenue.

The program is still looking for both newcomers and drivers.

“I’m very appreciative that the city, non profits and churches are working together, because that doesn’t happen very often. It’s these kinds of services that make St. Albert the best place to live in Canada,” said Lumbab.

Last year the welcoming community committee met once a month.

They will reconvene in September and discuss their future priorities, said MacMillan.

“Our hope is to get the information to those that can disseminate it rather than us interpreting it.”

“While you’re here, you belong here and you should be welcome here.”


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