Catholic Social Services raises funds amid influx of refugees

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Catholic Social Services is appealing to the generosity of donors due to a high demand for services and an influx of refugees settling in north-central Alberta.

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Speaking at Edmonton Public School’s Center High campus in downtown Edmonton on Wednesday, Catholic Social Services CEO Troy Davies said the agency is trying to raise $2.6 million through to the Sign of Hope fundraising campaign after every member of the organization saw an increase in the demand for help.

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« Funds raised go to support a variety of programs – from shelters for women and children fleeing domestic violence, to mental health counseling supports, to help in the area of ​​problem solving. ‘homelessness, » Davies said.

Services in need include supports for government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees, he added, particularly since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 2021 and after the Russia started a war with Ukraine earlier this year.

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Kathryn Friesen, the agency’s director of immigration and settlement services, said the organization generally expects to serve about 500 government-assisted refugees each year. But after Ottawa pledged to take in 40,000 Afghan refugees following the Taliban takeover, Catholic Social Services resettled 800 Afghans in north-central Alberta in addition to refugees from other countries. , she added.

Government funding helps cover these newcomers’ basic needs, such as food and temporary shelter, Friesen said, but increased assistance through the agency provides access to mental health supports, cross-cultural advice, school supplies and even technological resources such as computer tablets.

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“To equip people and prepare them to succeed in Canada, we need these additional supports through funding such as Sign of Hope,” she said. « It really helps get people started so they can integrate into our communities. »

A tablet helped 17-year-old Nargis Attaiee complete her Grade 12 schoolwork and learn French after she arrived in Edmonton in January with a group of 170 Afghan refugees, the student told reporters on Wednesday.

While writing school exams when the Taliban took over Kabul, Attaiee fled to neighboring Pakistan and hid there for five months before coming to Canada, she said.

Her mother died three weeks before she left, she said, and it wasn’t until she arrived in Edmonton that she found mental health support and the chance to return to school.

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« Everything changed in my life, » she said. « I started school, met new friends and on top of school I do volunteer work, » she added, noting that she was a junior coach with Free Play, a charity that works to reduce the barriers that prevent children from playing sports.

But it’s not a life she takes for granted, she said, especially after speaking to a friend in Afghanistan on Tuesday night, where the Taliban have restricted girls’ right to education since their arrival. in power.

« Their dreams are being destroyed, they’re still at home, they can’t go to school, » she said of her friends. « I really want the world to hear their voice, and not only have mercy on us, but also help us. »

A year after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Canada has welcomed more than 17,300 Afghan refugees, Federal Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said in a statement released in August.

About halfway to its fundraising goal, Catholic Social Services expects to resettle more newcomers as Canada strives to fully meet its commitment, Davies said.

« We are working to meet this demand, » he added. « But now more than ever, we need your support. »


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