8 min read
20 June 2024

World Refugee Day

Denise Walcott

Author: Zahra Khan

June 20 marks World Refugee Day, a day to honour refugees and celebrate their resiliency.

There are record numbers of people around the world being forcibly displaced by natural disasters, wars, violence, and other human rights violations. In 2023, over 117 million people were forcibly displaced, and that number is continuing to grow according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This year, Canada will welcome around 76,000 refugees who will come to start a new life and get a fair shot at peace and happiness.

However, starting over in a new country as a refugee can be challenging. Many refugees arrive without access to finances and a lack knowledge of Canada’s languages and culture.

Gbemisola Ahmed, a Nigerian banker experienced these struggles firsthand when she first arrived in Canada as refugee in 2023. Eager to participate in Canadian society, she had a desire to escape the constraints she had faced and was determined to build a new life. Once arriving in Canada, she faced many difficulties that she hadn’t anticipated.

The Canadian Job Market

For many newcomers to Canada, finding employment can be one of the first hurdles to integration. In her home country, Gbemisola had worked in financial services for many years. However, despite this wealth of experience, she struggled to find a job in Canada, as many employers would only consider candidates with Canadian work experience. With limited job prospects, and mental health concerns due to uncertainty of life in a new country, Gbemisola sought community.

Importance of Community

Community often plays an important role in helping refugees integrate and feel a sense of belonging. Gbemisola joined a church in Etobicoke as a way to give back. It was through the church that she was able to make the connections she needed to get experience and support in Canada. Her talents were noticed, and she was hired in the position of admin officer at the church. It was through that opportunity that Gbemisola also got connected to WoodGreen.

At WoodGreen, Gbemisola was recognized for her plethora of experience and her genuine desire to help people. That led to her getting hired as a Settlement Counsellor within the organization which has given her the ability to give back. Refugees are often best positioned to help other refugees settle into Canada as they understand what the process is like. Extremely enthusiastic to give back to her community, Gbemisola found not only a job, but meaning in her journey as she helps others do the same

"No matter how dark the storm, Woodgreen reminds me of the light within,” says Gbemisola. “I thought I'd lost everything, but I found my resilience. I thought I'd lost hope, but I found humanity. And with that, I rose again, stronger and brighter, a testament to the power of the human spirit.”

Employment Supports

Despite the many challenges that refugees face in settling in Canada, they eventually find stable employment. Refugees come from diverse backgrounds and are able to bring their expertise to the Canadian economy, with over half employed in high skill jobs despite struggles in the initial stage.

To ensure refugees are empowered to thrive, in 2024 WoodGreen is proud to launch a new Asylum Seeker Integration Program (AIP) that provides settlement and integration supports to asylum claimants. This expansive and holistic program provides asylum seekers a variety of supports including cultural orientation, community engagement, help with subsidized housing, access to healthcare, pre-employment and employment services, help with tax filing, financial empowerment, and referrals to additional services. As a diverse organization, we provide culturally relevant and language-specific services to support refugees in an often-difficult journey of finding employment, housing, and building community in a new country.

WoodGreen has welcomed 3,800 Newcomers from 124 countries in 2023

Learn more about Newcomer Services

WoodGreen’s many programs help refugees settle in their new life, and with some extra assistance more people in need can be uplifted in their journey. You can learn more about WoodGreen’s services here.

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