Helping refugees integrate into the community

SASKATOON – Over the past few months, Saskatoon Open Door Society (SODS) has been flooded with donations and volunteers coming forward to lend a hand.

“It took us a bit by surprise,” said Julie Flemingjuraz who works for the SODS in community connections and cultural bridging. “We’ve had four donation venues, but we’ve had to close two of them because we filled them up.”

READ MORE: Syrian refugee working to transition to life in Saskatoon 

On average, 300 people volunteer for the SODS a year. Right now there is a waiting list of people to be trained.

“We have a current wait-list of 300 [people], but in the last six weeks we’ve put through over 200 people. That’s trained, screened and had them ready to go for when the refugees began arriving,” explains Flemingjuraz.
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The SODS has been offering services to newcomers in Saskatoon for over 35 years. They are responsible for greeting government sponsored refugees, and getting them settled to their new lives in Canada.

“We have been doing this work for a long time,” said SODS executive director Ali Abukar. “It is not only about the one refugee group, but also all refugees and other newcomers. We want to continue this momentum to facilitate the integration of newcomers into the community.”

In the long term, the goal is to help newcomers successfully integrate into the community. In order to do this, SODS meets with community groups to identify needs.

One of these programs is called employer connections, where they meet with industry to identify gaps in employment and then train newcomers to fill those roles.

SODS employment counsellor Tisham Mohammed says this is important because employers are “looking for employees, so we are getting them employment ready so they can jump in and fill the gap in the community. I still believe there are a lot of gaps, if you talk to employers, or run the statistics you will see.”

Many of the gaps are in the service industry, which is looking for more long-term employees.

“We have to include the entire community as a whole, in terms of employers’ perspective and employment perspective,” said Mohammed.

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It is expected that of the 25,000 Syrian refugees mandated by the federal government, 850 will be coming to Saskatchewan spread over Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw.

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