Each year, over 113,000 people from 153 countries claim refugee status in Canada and that number has been dramatically increasing with political unrest, war, famine and natural disasters spreading across the globe. As Canada opens its doors to innocent civilians fleeing global human rights violations, there are places across Toronto that offer a beacon of hope in their trying times.
With the need for essential necessities for new refugees and immigrants arriving in Canada, Umme Hani, a Research Assistant at the Peer Medical Foundation created customizable CARE (C for Compassionate, A for Acceptance, R for Resilience and E for Empowerment) Baskets for individuals & families in the Greater Toronto Area.
The project was born after seeing first-hand the difficulties faced by new arrivals, most recently the Afghan refugees staying near Mississauga’s Pearson Airport without basic necessities. These refugees were digging through boxes, and bags of donated clothes in the trunk of a car, looking for winter coats, warm sweaters, socks and shoes that might fit their children while also relying on the community for food & groceries. With little to no spare money from their own savings and a lack of support payments from the federal government that weren’t in effect yet, these challenges made it increasingly more difficult for them to call Canada home.
Through the Peer Med Impact initiative, CARE Baskets were created to support shelters, and care homes that interacted with refugee and immigrant populations.
On February 5th, 2022, the CARE Baskets were donated to Matthew House, Adam house, FCJ Refugee Centre and Sojourn House, shelters that provide transitional and emergency housing to refugee claimants that arrive in Toronto. After receiving funding from the RisingYouth community service grant, Umme spent weeks contacting shelters, finding out their individual needs while also enriching her awareness of the difficulties faced by this vulnerable population. Umme, a biotechnology graduate says “Visiting these places of support and comfort for refugees has been very rewarding, and especially knowing that the staff and people providing the support are looking at enabling these refugees and immigrants to rebuild and reconstruct their lives meaningfully with respect to self-determination in Canada.”
More importantly, she adds “In addition to providing clean and safe accommodation, these houses also provided referrals to legal services, advice with immigration procedures, medical assistance and various community resources to its residents.”
Each shelter educated Umme and us, at the Peer Medical Foundation about the problems faced by refugee populations, their work to mitigate them and of ways that we can continue working together. “Seeing these residents in their different communities made me realize that they had found a home at places like Adam House and Matthew House. They were more than just shelters: they were their new homes where they had found people to call family and a place where they could build a future and hope for more.” says Umme Hani.
At the Peer Medical Foundation, we are delighted to have made a difference in the lives of these immigrant and refugee families, to have improved their health & well-being a little and to have provided basic necessities to brace a pandemic during their first winter in Canada. We are always looking at future opportunities to give back to the local communities in need, especially as we strive to support patients wherever they are and those who may be even more vulnerable during these challenging times.