Programs help refugees overcome trauma

United Way funds sessions for Syrians in Surrey, Burnaby

The kinds of horrors that Syrian refugees to Canada may have experienced are many, from kidnapping and torture, to the execution of family or friends to sexual assault, exploitation and threats.

Once here, they may need help dealing with the trauma they faced escaping one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.

To that end, the United Way of the Lower Mainland is committing $158,000 to mental health programs to help the latest wave of Syrian refugees to come to local communities. The programs will be delivered through two social service agencies: Surrey-based DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society and MOSAIC.

The United Way launched an urgent fundraising appeal in November to help Syrian children and families settle in, speaking with partner agencies about the needs the refugees may face and asking for project ideas to access funds.

DIVERSEcity will use its $88,000 grant to deliver eight five-week group sessions for Syrian adults and parents, as well as children aged five to eight. The sessions will use material developed by experienced providers of trauma services for refugees and will be facilitated by registered clinical counsellors and other trained staff. A minimum of one facilitator of each group will speak Arabic and have a working knowledge of the cultural norms, religious beliefs and communication needs or possible barriers. Childminding for younger children and lunch will be provided.

“We are so thankful to United Way for supporting this program as there is a tremendous need for programs like this that support the mental health of refugees – we know how beneficial it is for their successful settlement and long term success here in Canada,” Tahzeem Kassam, Chief Operating Officer at DIVERSEcity.

MOSAIC will use a grant of $70,000 to provide art and play therapy groups for kids under 12 at a community school in Burnaby. The project is intended to help Syrian families integrate into the school system and link them to other free mental health services to help overcome trauma.

“As a healthy, caring, inclusive community, it’s incumbent upon us to help these people,” says Michael McKnight, President & CEO, United Way of the Lower Mainland. “These programs that focus on mental health support for Syrian newcomers will provide a critically important service.”

Between 2,500 and 3,000 Syrian refugees are expected to settle in the Lower Mainland and other parts of B.C. in the coming months. It’s anticipated about 40 per cent will be children under 18.

The two mental health support programs are the first in a series of investments United Way intends to make to help families settle. To make a donation, visit


Just Posted

Man ‘seriously’ injured in crash after driving wrong way on Highway 17: Surrey RCMP

Police say the sedan hit a transport truck, then another car

Easter ‘eggstravaganza’ event planned for South Surrey

Event is to run from 12-3 p.m. at Dufferin Park (17355 2 Ave.).

IHIT hunting in Edmonton for clues to 2017 Surrey homicide

Tanner Krupa, 19 was found dead in an alley in August 2017, in the 6900-block of 127A Street

Update: Surrey Mounties found missing man

Kuldip Sandhu, 41, had been reported missing

Surrey youth ‘REWIRE’ in play-creating project that involves a lunar eclipse and video games

‘It was such a fun process to create a play from scratch,’ says Guildford Park Secondary student

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

Foreign national arrested in connection to thefts at YVR

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Rare ‘Snow Tower’ tree blooming in Vancouver city park

A plant rarely grown in Canada is now flowering at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

Man airlifted to hospital after apparent hunting incident in East Kootenay

The man was in stable condition when he was flown out of Fairmont Hot Springs to a Calgary hospital

Most Read