Mithlesh Kumar arrived in Calgary from India one month ago. He’s now looking for work after the pandemic wiped out his job in the travel industry.
“Inflation is very high and gas and housing have gotten very expensive, so people are really struggling,” Kumar said. “People have lost their jobs. People are struggling to save money.”
He said starting over in Calgary is a challenge but it’s easier because of the contacts he’s made the at South Asian Community Resource Fair held at the Genesis Centre on Saturday.
“I think they’re doing an awesome job because people need that because this is a different country. For the people coming from Asia and Europe, they need support, they need to mix with the people because you can’t stay all alone here,” he said. “You need to connect with people and you need to socialize.”
Various settlement agencies and cultural groups were at the fair at the Genesis Centre, which was organized by the South Asian Service Providers Collaborative (SASPC).
Organizers are hoping to break down barriers that the South Asian community is facing in terms of accessing services.
“The South Asian community is facing so many problems, especially after the pandemic in terms of employment, mental health, domestic violence and there are so many others,” Humaira Falak, program coordinator with Action Dignity, said.
“We wanted to bring everybody together on one platform instead of them going in finding resources and navigating through the complicated system.”
She said Calgary’s South Asian community has seen an increase in people with mental health issues like depression and anxiety since the pandemic started. Falak added it’s important that service providers actively search for newcomers in need of help.
“I feel this marginalized group is actually falling through the cracks and we need to come up with a very co-ordinated and collaborative service where we actively reach out to them,” Falak said.
Shamaila Akram is the manager of vulnerable population services with the Centre for Newcomers and a registered psychologist. She said while immigrants show incredible resiliency, some don’t reach out for help due to stigma and language barriers.
“It’s very important for us to teach them emotional vocabulary related to mental health because a lot of times the emotions are there but they cannot name the emotion,” Akram said.
Falak also noted that counsellors are often not affordable for ethnocultural and racialized communities.
“I think there is a huge gap when it comes to mental health services,” Falak said.
Various groups at the fair, including Punjabi Community Health Services, have more affordable options.
PCHS is a counselling agency that understands the differences between South Asian and Western cultures which impact the delivery of social and health care services. They provide culturally-informed counselling services.
Kumar said he’s happy to be in Calgary and is thankful for the work of the groups that came together on Saturday.
“I appreciate the organizations and non-profit groups that are coming forward and supporting newcomers,” he said. “There are so many programs for the kids and students. They’re offering good programs to newcomers and I appreciate that. At this moment, they really need mental health support.
“This country is a country of immigrants and we need to come and support these people.”