Rainbow arrived in Canada from China when she was a very young woman. She came alone; both her parents had died and she spoke little English. Eventually, Rainbow married and had two children. She spent the first few years here in and out of hospital with illness. Because she couldn’t speak English and felt isolated by this, she wasn’t able to integrate into life in her adopted home of Vancouver. She felt anxious, overwhelmed, and depressed. Rainbow was suffering from the challenges of life in a new country – culture shock, language and literacy barriers, poverty and health concerns. She needed help. She got that help thanks to United Way-funded Pacific Immigrant Resources Society (PIRS), a community-based, non-profit organization serving immigrant and refugee women and their young children. At first Rainbow was nervous, insecure and struggled to learn English. But she persevered. Over the next several months, Rainbow’s confidence grew and she became a leader in the ESL class she attended. Today, Rainbow volunteers at Collingwood Neighbourhood House where she leads a parenting circle and prepares and serves meals to families on Mondays. She also has a new job and continues to develop her English speaking skills. Two things that were critical for Rainbow to access the program were location and free childcare for children age five and under. Rainbow was able to walk to her ESL class at Vancouver’s Champlain Heights School. Because of the childcare, she was able to learn English and connect with others while her children were cared for. Trust was built, friendships were built, and a world of possibilities opened. Thanks to donors like you, organizations across the Lower Mainland are able help to help immigrants and refugees like Rainbow integrate into Canadian life and become productive, happy, engaged citizens. In 2015, United Way invested $2.5 million into programs and services for refugee and immigrant families across the Lower Mainland. Because of UWLM’s leadership role and expertise in working with new Canadians, we are one of only three United Ways in North America that has been asked to help United Way Worldwide develop refugee landing and integration programs for Syrian refugees arriving in Canada between December 2015 and February 2016. Our United for Refugees appeal will help support community agencies like PIRS that offer programs directly focused on getting refugees settled, helping them learn a new language and finding work. Help us build strong communities for everyone. Please give.
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