Regina Open Door Society (RODS) A Collaborative Approach to Group Processing in Regina, Saskatchewan Group Processing To share the organization’s involvement and experiences as a Service Providing Organization(SPO) in the group processing of the Karen refugee group To share the successes and challenges through the experiences of an SPO in a state of significant change A Collaborative Approach For four years now, cooperative efforts of the Regina and Area Refugee Support Group, Regina CIC and the Regina Open Door Society to promote the plight and the contribution of refugees to our community has resulted in annual World Refugee Day celebrations, the release of a 2007 public education calendar “Dispelling the Myths” and increased numbers of Joint Assisted Sponsorships and volunteer participation. A Collaborative Approach Through the combined efforts of the Regina Open Door Society, Regina CIC and the Regina and Area Refugee Support Group (RARSG), the community resettled 220 GARS, 30 over the target of 190. 133 were Karen refugees. In 2006, Regina truly committed itself to sponsoring by welcoming the Karen refugees to our community. 96 of 133 individuals were sponsored by 17 JAS groups Regina Open Door Society-Challenges • April 2006 – The number of GARs to Regina was reduced from 196 to 190, asked to wind down LINC Child minding and transportation services and a successful life skills pilot could not be continued past March 31, due to lack of funds • To cope with the reductions and improve service delivery, RODS restructured its human resources in June of 2006 • Specific to Settlement, the Settlement and Integration Manager and RAP Coordinator positions were eliminated • Manager of Family Services became Manager of Settlement & Family Services overseeing RAP, ISAP, Families In Transition and KidsFirst • Major office renovations began to accommodate the new structure that affected about half of RODS employees • Preparations were well underway with Regina CIC, RARSG and RODS preparing to resettle a large group of Karen refugees Prior to Arrival • Locating and booking temporary accommodations • Locating permanent accommodations (Regina Housing Authority and Landlords) • Locating service providers to offer furniture packages • Contacting shopping centers and stores for basic household packages • Getting orientation materials/packages translated into Karen languages • Locating/hiring Karen interpreters • These items were not done in isolation, but collaboratively between RODS S&F staff, Community Services staff, CIC, RARSG and community volunteers/agencies/employers, etc. • Meetings and planning with CIC & JAS regarding Karen arrivals • Karen’s would be arriving as CR1s, CR5s and VOR (Visa office Referrals) Some of the Challenges • Affordable, appropriate housing for large families (need to be close to others, gender issues) and for those with medical and/or accessibility needs • Additional funds were provided & staff were being interviewed, hired and trained during and following the Karen group arriving and as services were being delivered • Delay in travel for various medical and other reasons resulted in the majority of Karens arriving in November during Regina’s one week annual international Agribition Show affecting reservations and length of stay in temporary accommodations • Within one month we saw growth within the Settlement programs from 3.5 FTEs (front line staff) to 8 including interpreter/support caseworkers, life skills trainers and admin support. • Continued to receive and settle non Karen arrivals with special needs at the same time. Most experienced caseworkers (3) were assigned to Karens while others were trained to meet the needs of current caseloads. • Meeting the Health Care Needs • Protocols for after hours arrivals, emergency healthcare, lines of communication were established First Karen Arrivals • First family arrived in September (CR1s and VORs) Support was provided to all as they belonged to the same family and volunteers did not have sufficient experience to provide all necessary services. • Experienced settlement caseworker thoroughly documented services for 6 weeks. RAP and Life Skills assistance resulted in 52.5 hours of service delivery • Conjuctivitis and other issues continued to delay the majority of arrivals. • Prior arrangements had to be changed again and again Successes • Continuous communication with CIC, JAS, community and volunteers regarding the needs of arrivals • Excellent support from community, funders and volunteers • Karen people are extremely cooperative and supportive of one another • Interpreters – Fortunate to eventually hire 2 excellent, caring Karen interpreters/support workers • Orientation materials “Settling in SK translated and provided in orientation packages • Bringing JAS groups (CR5s) first and then CR1s. Allowed staff to focus on CR1s while collaborating with JAS to ensure the needs of JAS and VORs were met • Thanks to the IOM - Needs assessment questionnaires offered guidance, understanding and appreciation for the Karen families by staff. Staff made adjustments to better meet the needs and prepare a more culturally welcoming experience. Successes • Matt’s Furniture out of Fort Qu’Appelle submitted the best quote for furniture. (Quality, price, service including pictures for clients, delivery into the city and set up) • Giant Tiger in Regina agreed to put together household packages based on family needs for pick up by staff • Regina City Police met with newcomers to assure them of their safety when immediate move into permanent accommodations was required due to Agribition. • Support from Regina Housing Authority, however challenges were large families, gender make up of children, accessibility, etc. • Wheelchair loans from SK Abilities Council • RODS van, mini bus and staff vehicles accommodated the large numbers • Community donations of clothing and household items • Royal Bank assigned additional staff members to assist with cashing start up cheques and opening accounts KidsFirst: Families and Children Families with children under the age of two were referred to RODS KidsFirst Regina program for intensive home visit support Collaborating with the Settlement team, KidsFirst home visitor offered additional intensive support that is not offered to families under the Settlement programs Welcome to Regina Airport Reception Donations from Caring Volunteers Welcome! Orientation to Temp Accommodations RODS BUS Banking Shopping Shopping Life Skills Services The Past 8 Months at RODS • Increased from 35 to 51 staff members with support from CIC and the Provincial Immigration Branch • Opened, renovated and moved into a 3rd location to accommodate growth. Board/Staff Facilities Committee continues to develop plans for facility enhancement. • Approved by province to open new licensed Child Care Centre. Recently completed major renovations. • In cooperation with CIC, expanded from 6 to 11 LINC classes to accommodate over 150 learners. • Additional teaching staff, disabilities specialist, admin support….. • Newly funded Enhanced Host and Volunteer Training project and Health Services Educator • Planning for commencement of new provincially funded programs and services as SK expands nominee program. Working to attract & retain up to 5000 immigrants annually by 2008. Thank you team for your dedication, commitment, compassion & professionalism!