June 16th, 2024

Organizations partner for newcomers pilot project

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on December 6, 2022.

Herald Photo by Ry Clarke Laura Branner, Coordinator of Lethbridge Local Immigration Partnership, tells audience members how the Shaping Inclusive Societies pilot program will help establish financial empowerment to newcomers at Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden's Bunka Center.

A new partnership between three organizations in Lethbridge will make up the Shaping Inclusive Societies Lethbridge pilot project. Lethbridge Local Immigration (Lethbridge Family Services), Lethbridge Public Library, and Tourism Lethbridge will be part of SIS, which aims to assist financial empowerment for newcomers in Lethbridge helping build community capacity around financial literacy.

The partnership pilot program was one of two Canadian projects chosen in 2021 to receive funding and support through Shaping Inclusive Societies, supported through SINGA Deutschland and the Robert Bosch Foundation. The Lethbridge team have received specialized training aimed at strengthening local cross-sectoral teams to address challenges related to inclusion, equality, and connection among newcomers and locals.

“It is a really important part of empowerment,” said Laura Branner, coordinator of the Local Immigration Partnership, during a press event at Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens on Tuesday evening. “If you don’t understand how interest rates work, how are going to buy a house? You don’t just understand everything. It has a whole lot to do with resources that are provided for them. There is no place that they can go to for unbiased, free, financial support.”

Engaging with Momentum, a Calgary-based organization that specializes in employment and skills training, will be brought to Lethbridge by SIS to help train 25 people in January.

“Our plan is, when we do the two-day training at the library, we will start to bring that collective together,” said Branner. “We wanted to work as a community. We didn’t want to just pay for training and leave it. We really wanted to leave a legacy, in our community, and build over time.”

Working on the project for around a year and half, the project looks to build on the needs of the community and understand the issues newcomers face in establishing themselves into society.

“The financial empowerment piece was foundational,” said Erin Crane, CEO of Tourism Lethbridge. “If you don’t have that skill set, it makes everything much harder. If we can start with one piece of that foundation to help people, that is where we want it to go.”

Olga Abbott, participant in the program, notes it helps establish the groundwork of where to begin as a new resident to Canada.

“I have been working with Family Services for over five years, and we have noticed newcomers have problems finding a job,” said Abbott. “Even if you have five diplomas when you come here, your diploma, you need to upgrade it, you need to prove your diploma. But you also need to find a job, you need money for living. It is very difficult.”

The pilot program will look to strengthen community through financial and social inclusion of newcomers to Lethbridge.

“Being able to provide solid education is important for these people,” said Branner. “Sometimes people get embarrassed to ask or they don’t know how. We want to empower them and know that they can have support, not feeling like it is a heavy burden.”

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