Established in 1971, the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria helps newcomers settle and succeed in Canadian society.
ICA serves thousands of clients every year with a wide range of services, including English classes, income tax help, mentorship and career guidance.
The organization has almost 100 employees and 175 volunteers and is funded entirely by the federal and provincial governments, as well as private donors.
Many of its volunteers are former newcomers themselves.
“Just seeing someone who represents your life and your background and your culture who you can make a connection with, that is so critical. It’s such a basic human need to be able to relate to, to be able to connect to someone who shares your experience.” said coordinator of volunteer services Liz Bean.
“The opportunity for me to be a part of an organization that really does so much good, and not just in the city, but for the whole country, it’s a really a good place to be a part of,” said longtime volunteer Cornelia Price, who came to B.C. from California years ago.
Many of ICA’s clients are highly qualified professionals who are facing barriers getting their credentials recognized in Canada.
ICA offers employment services to help them stay on their career path.
“It just helps the economy, helps their personal growth, because as an immigrant, what happens if you are forced to do other jobs than what you have done… first thing you lose is your confidence,” said employment case manager Ash Moosavi.
ICA is now taking part in a national pilot project, an eight-week workshop that helps visible minority women find jobs.
“Racism, definitely discrimination of various types, gender discrimination as well, is one of the things that they face. And so, the program is designed to overcome some of those barriers for these women,” said employment services manager Deb Hamblin.
ICA is also supporting newcomers by helping society become more welcoming.
The non-profit is the first organization in the country to provide free training for the Google Translate app.
So far, they’ve trained more than 2,500 people across Canada.
In addition, ICA runs a simulation called “Forced to Flee,” which puts people in the shoes of a refugee family that has to make life or death decisions on their journey to safety.
“When we wrap up these simulations, our communities can more value the strength, perseverance, and courage that a lot of our resettled refugees in our community now have to have made the journey and made it all the way to be resettled in Canada,” said community integration coordinator Kate Longpre.
For more information, or to find out how you can volunteer, visit ICA’s website: www.icavictoria.org.