Interview with Monika Isaak, Coordinator of Refugee Claimants Support Services
July 21, 2021
Archway Community Services is located in the city of Abbotsford, in the Fraser Valley. It is the main settlement service provider in the city and has been in existence for over 50 years. Archway serves people from all different backgrounds and ages with several different needs.
The Multicultural Immigration and Integration Services Department has been in existence for 36 years since around 1985. It is through this department that Archway offers most of their services for refugees and refugee claimants one of them being the Refugee Claimants Support Services.
What is your organization’s purpose?
As an agency, Archway’s vision is helping in the creation of justice, opportunities, and equitable access for all. It is their mission to foster community well-being and social justice through positive action and leadership.
Archway achieves its vision in three ways. Firstly, by planning and providing direct social and community services, where it engages with clients directly. Secondly, by heightening awareness of social concerns within the community and fostering community involvement. Lastly, by engaging in partnerships with government, private organizations, and individuals to create said opportunities for community involvement and strengthening.
What resources or services does your organization provide for refugee claimants?
Archway offers services to refugee claimants through two contracts: Stream A and Stream B.
Through Stream A, Archway offers Immigration & Settlement Services such as orientation, information, and referral to community resources and government services. They assist claimants in navigating immigration and work permit applications, and provide community connections including social engagement activities, professional mentoring, participation in cross-cultural events, and job fairs.
Through this contract, Archway also offers Labour Market Services. These services include information about and orientation to the local job market to help form connections and explore job opportunities. Archway also offers training on workplace rights and responsibilities, work safety, and workplace culture, and provides supported access to appropriate authorities in the event of workplace safety or employment standards violations or concerns.
Lastly, Archway also offers Language Training for Adults through both formal and informal components. The formal classes are led by qualified LINC instructors, and the informal language tutoring is led by volunteers. These sessions are normally accessed by refugee claimants who are ineligible for LINC classes due to their status, or by those who are not comfortable with group learning settings.
Thanks to their multicultural staff, Archway can offer their Settlement and Labour Market Services in a whopping 20 languages: Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Cantonese, Dinka, English, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Macedonian, Mandarin, Punjabi, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Swahili, Taiwanese, Turkish, Urdu, and Vietnamese. Thus, Archway battles language barriers by taking measures to help those clients who cannot express themselves in English.
Archway has a sub-contract with MOSAIC to deliver their Stream B services. This stream works exclusively with refugee claimants and provides support through two main services:
- The Mental Health Services are short-term counselling services for refugees and refugee claimants focusing on a range of issues including trauma, grief, anger, or adaptation to a new country. Archway has two in-house counsellors who can offer services in Spanish and Turkish. Depending on their clients’ needs, the program also offers services through a third counsellor who speaks Punjabi. For clients with other language barriers, they offer interpretation in over 60 languages through the Interpretation and Translation Services they have on-site.
- The Customized Employment Support is a one-on-one short-term basic employment-related service. This service includes helping clients find opportunities for job shadowing or potential workplace mentorships, providing skill-based matches between refugee claimant and employer needs, and assisting with resume writing and interview practice, as well as job searching.
What is an example of a success you’ve had through your work with refugee claimants?
Archway has had a lot of amazing success stories through the programs they provide and here are three inspiring stories they shared from Refugee Claimants Support Services:
Family from Turkey
Archway staff assisted a claimant family from Turkey. The mother felt isolated due to a lack of community connections and friends, and experienced anxiety around their refugee claim, which was aggravated since her husband was not able to find a job at the beginning. Archway wanted to alleviate her anxiety caused by the claimant process and the challenge of adapting to a new country and offered her counselling services which helped her. The mother was extremely grateful for having received their aid.
Family from Iran
Archway staff assisted a mother and her two children who had come from Iran. The children had just graduated from high school and were interested in finding a job. Through Customized Employment Support services, the staff helped the clients with the creation of resumes, and cover letters, prepared them for interviews, which helped them to keep motivated throughout the process. Since they had never worked in Canada Archway staff referred them to BC Work’s website to explain the application process and showed them other online places where they could apply for jobs. As a result, one of the siblings got a full-time job and the other sibling got a part-time job.
Like everybody else, during Covid, Archway had to transition to online services. Despite that, Archway noticed that their clients adapted, and many of them now prefer online services, especially services such as counselling and therapy. Archway is grateful that their online platform was successful and well received by their clients who adapted quickly to the new environment. Archway has now returned to offering services in-person but continues to offer online services due to its success in helping clients.
Is there anything else you would like to highlight?
The different programs offered to refugee claimants through Archway’s Multicultural Immigration and Integration Department, are very collaborative programs. The Refugee Claimants Support Services specifically works closely with Inasmuch, MOSAIC, the Food Bank, Work BC, and their in-house settlement team due to the different languages needs many of their clients have. The staff is thankful for this unique possibility of collaboration, as well as for the success they have had with always meeting their targets. It is through this and their clients’ feedback that they know that their services are crucial for the betterment of their clients.
Agency’s website: Archway.ca
To learn more about the Refugee Claimants Support Services, visit: Archway.ca/RCSS
or contact: RefugeeClaimants@archway.ca