The word refugee conjures up a lot of different images for most people. We think of long lines of people travelling down a road. We think of thousands of people crowded into a camp, living in tents or temporary structures. We see pictures in the media of families crossing into Canada with a few suitcases.

A refugee “is someone who has been forced to flee conflict or persecution and has crossed an international border to seek safety. They cannot return to their country without risking their life or freedoms.”

Our counsellors at CCI know from experience that no one risks everything to get here only to sit on their hands when they arrive. Refugees have left family and loved ones behind. They have given up professions. Their children are out of school. Their savings are dwindling.

They want to build new lives.

CCI Ottawa has been helping refugees build new lives. In April, we were able to increase the services we offer to refugee claimants thanks to new funding from the government.

CCI hired an employment specialist who is dedicated to helping refugees find jobs.

Many refugees come to Canada with job skills, but they don’t know where to look for work or understand the Canadian work culture.

The new employment specialist will help them. For example, in Canada, most people find a job by searching online. Not only are the jobs found online, but one also has to apply online.

Other topics include learning how to create a Canadian resume. In Canada, resumes typically don’t include photos, are printed on white paper, and are limited to two pages. That’s not always the case in other cultures.

Refugees will also get support on job interviews and employment rights.

In addition to an employment specialist, CCI Ottawa hired three counsellors to help refugees integrate into life in Ottawa.

It’s an understatement to say it’s stressful to move to a new country, especially if you are fleeing for your life. You need more than a job.

Refugees have a lot of questions. Where do I send my children to school? How does the bus system work? Where can we buy groceries? How can we make friends? And how do we navigate the immigration system correctly so that we know we can build our lives here?

These are questions our refugee specialists can answer.

So why do we believe in helping refugees?

First, it’s the right thing to do, to help someone in need, who, through no fault of their own, finds themselves and their family in a crisis.

Secondly, by helping refugees with employment and settlement, they will soon become contributing members of our society and that’s when we all win.