Immigrant Women’s Project (IWP)

Immigrant Women’s Projects (IWP)

Established in 2008, the Immigrant Women’s Projects program (formerly called, “Healthy Women, Healthy Communities (HWHC)”) –delivered within VIRCS’ Settlement Program – is dedicated to providing relevant and accessible information to immigrant women on female related issues. The program offers monthly educational activities that inform newcomer women on health, safety and wellbeing issues. Over the past 2 years, the specific areas of focus have been on breast cancer awareness, domestic abuse and wellness. Program activities are delivered through interactive group workshops, translation services, participant feedback, volunteer engagement, and presentations provided by skilled facilitators and guest speakers.

In 2017, roughly 800 Syrian refugees settled in Victoria, BC, half of whom were women, and most of the women had small children less than 6 years old. The process of migration brings with it a myriad of transitions that can result in stress, anxiety, helplessness, and disappointment. Moreover, women caring for small children have different needs, and face different barriers to integration than those with older children or with none at all. As a result, programming that meets the needs of newcomer women, especially those who care for small children, is both timely and critical.

In July 2016, VIRCS received funding to launch an innovative Breast Cancer Awareness & Prevention project to engage immigrant men and women. The focus of the 2 year project was to improve education about breast cancer within the multi-ethnic communities of Greater Victoria. It identified gaps in community resources, and provided awareness education to women and men, maintaining consideration of cultural sensitivity issues. This project concluded at the end of June, 2018. Overall, participants consistently found the family health talk workshops to be high quality, valuable, and relevant to their needs. The Breast Cancer Awareness & Prevention project for newcomers enabled 40 immigrant women, men, and their families to receive information and tools to improve their awareness and importance of health, and wellbeing to make their settlement into Canada more optimistic.

Our current program is called Allies in Action Project (AAP), which is a community education initiative. It provides information and awareness about domestic/family violence to newcomer men, women and youth. The project has also focused on establishing relationships with faith organizations and ethno-cultural associations, which are not traditionally included in domestic/family abuse dialogue. Overall, the project’s aim is to help break the cycle of abuse by building capacity and knowledge through community education within Greater Victoria. This project serves newcomer youth, women, and men from urban communities, ethno-cultural or visible minority groups, official language minority groups, and persons undergoing separation or divorce, victims of crime, communities at large.

The IWP program continues to be offered as part of VIRCS’ Settlement Services, and is supported by a Program Manager, Assistant Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, contracted facilitators, and a wide variety of volunteers who bring their passion, expertise and experiences to help program participants feel more welcomed and empowered in their settlement journey in Canada.