An inclusive community benefits all newcomers

Funding to help new immigrants settle in the Peace Region has come from the provincial government, with S.U.C.C.E.S.S in Fort St. John receiving $200,000 and the Literacy Society in Dawson Creek receiving $107,000.

"Government is committed to ensuring that new immigrants to British Columbia receive the best settlement services to help them adjust to their new life. These services will allow newcomers to prosper, in turn creating stronger, more vibrant communities," said Pat Bell, minister of jobs, tourism, and skills training and minister responsible for labour.

The Welcoming Communities Program first began in 2008 and is focused on helping 51 communities across B.C. develop the ability to aid in the settlement of new immigrants to their neighbourhoods.

"There has been a huge increase in the number of newcomers and immigrants to the community," said Jennifer Neis, program coordinator for the Dawson Creek Literacy Society.

The funding provided through WelcomeBC means that S.U.C.C.E.S.S. will be able to run the (WCP) program in the hopes of creating a more inclusive Fort St. John for immigrants within the community.

"We're thinking that we're going to raise the community awareness of the issues that the immigrants are facing," said David Ambaryan, Welcoming Communities Program Coordinator for S.U.C.C.E.S.S. in Fort St. John. "Whatever we say, there is a little bit of discrimination or prejudice against immigrants and we hope to basically bring the immigrants and the local population together.

The Literacy Society in Dawson Creek has teamed up with other members of the community to make sure that the entire region is inclusive for everyone.

"All of the community businesses and community non-profits and support groups are getting together and we're going to be making sure that we make this a very welcoming and inclusive community," explained Neis. "It's not just our money. It's the community's money so that we're all working together."

In Fort St. John employers and community members will be able to take part in workshops and seminars that will touch on issues immigrants such as the difference in work experience and resume writing.

"Our target is basically to have all inclusive workplaces and living spaces here so that people are treated equally regardless of their place of origin," explained Ambaryan.

In Dawson Creek, different businesses, community non-profits and support groups will put on a different themed workshop each month. These workshops will be available to anyone in the community who wants to take part.

"We've started just this week and last week with a financial literacy workshop for our classes and that was open to the community ... They had some volunteers come in a host the workshop," said Neis.

"It all comes down to making it a more welcoming community. I think it's important to become involved in a community - you're just happier."

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