In September 2015, Ottawa was struck by the realities of the Syrian refugee crisis.
From the video of a toddler rescued from the rubble of his bombed-out home, to stories of overcrowded boats capsizing—the images were devastating. We will never forget the heart wrenching photo of Alan Kurdi, just three-years-old, washed up on a beach in Turkey.
When Alan drowned alongside his brother, mother and 10 other Syrian migrants, the world took note—and so did Ottawa. Generous donors, community leaders, non-profits, businesses, faith groups, community agencies, universities and governments pulled together.
United Way Ottawa has a history of supporting newcomers, and it was clear we needed to do something: bring refugees from the Syrian crisis to Ottawa and help them build a better life.
It was in October of 2015 that we launched United for Refugees, a community initiative that would go on to raise more than $950,000 by the end of 2018. This generosity allowed these newcomers to be sponsored, come to Ottawa and make a home, put food on their tables, learn English, receive mental health and other supports, and connect to job opportunities.
The community came together to achieve long-lasting impact for those depending on us.
“The Youth Services Bureau and United Way was the first step for me to realize who I wanted to be.”
Another important area is our support of after-school programming like homework clubs and recreation programs. These initiatives draw large numbers of children and newcomers, as they are located in communities with significant numbers of immigrants and new Canadians.
United Way also invests in place-based programs and projects that support community engagement and resident capacity-building are focused in neighbourhoods with large immigrant populations.