Adapting as Newcomer and Refugee Women in Ottawa

Readers may have different levels of understanding about what it is like to immigrate to Canada. The journey to Canada looks different for each person. Getting settled may not be a process many readers have experienced. When women arrive in Canada there is much to become familiar with, and settlement stories can get complicated. Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO) provides pathways to assist immigrant and racialized women.

IWSO is an important resource for these women. Their services include: settlement and integration counselling, crisis intervention, as well as language translation and interpretation services. IWSO is also a trusted and important resource for other service organizations in the Ottawa region. When language barriers are an issue in providing support services, other agencies in the region reach out to IWSO for well-trained and culturally sensitive interpreters who are able to translate over 70 languages.

Team IWSO has 5 members registered for Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and could really use your help reaching their $5,000 goal—this is the 2nd year IWSO has entered a team.

For over 30 years, IWSO has grown and changed to reflect the needs of Ottawa’s community. Connections are formed through English and French conversation classes, Care for Newcomer Children Program (CNC), community programs and employment services. One very important program IWSO created was digital literacy which takes immigrant and racialized women from beginner to advanced levels of learning.  While digital literacy became more needed than ever during the pandemic, it also became harder to deliver. 

As COVID-19 lockdowns and public health measures created complex challenges for IWSO, they quickly transitioned their services on-line. “Clients are increasingly isolated, and vulnerable. They are increasingly left behind in receiving much needed medical care, in accessing fundamental social support, and in navigating the new technological, virtual, and often impersonalized reality in which we now operate.”, shared Nadine Edirmanasinghe, of Edirmana Law, who relies on interpretation and translation services to best serve her clients. “I am thankful for the partnership I have with IWSO and extend my sincerest thanks to all those in the Language Interpretation and Translation Services (LIS) department in helping both my clients and I to navigate through this new post-COVID reality.”

IWSO’s Executive Director, Mercy Lawluvi says “Gender-based violence cases increased by almost 45% at the onset of COVID-19 and especially during lockdowns. It was just horrific.” Luckily, the agency was able to secure more funding to increase capacity to meet the demand for services. “We are grateful for the support of Team IWSO in this year’s Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend and wish all the runners the best of luck in achieving their personal goals.”

Settlement can be challenging, especially those who have experienced domestic violence after arriving in Canada, putting them and their children in jeopardy. For example, in a story IWSO shares, a 43 year-old Syrian refugee and her four children who arrived here faced domestic violence. After living in danger for years fleeing from war and poverty as a family, she was now in danger from her husband. Since their arrival, he was increasingly controlling, fearful of her independence, and violent. Through her settlement counselor, crisis intervention services and legal support were connected, and she has now become an IWSO success story. 

Thanks to IWSO there is a community of caring and culturally responsive people to help immigrant and racialized women settle into their new lives in Canada  and address emergencies as they arise along their journey.  Let IWSO know how grateful you are for their extraordinary work.  Join their team or make a generous gift to help them reach their goal of raising $5,000!