Helping our community cope with the influx of refugee claimants

United Way Winnipeg and community partners launch to address the urgent need for help with a recent surge of refugee claimants coming to Winnipeg.

United Way volunteers have been listening to community partners and agencies to better understand the challenges created by a rapidly growing number of refugee claimants, and ways to involve and connect Winnipeggers wanting to help.

United for Refugee Claimants in Winnipeg.

“The number of people arriving is unprecedented given the cold weather,” said Abdi Ahmed, Coordinator for
Immigration Partnership Winnipeg, one of several groups coordinating a community-wide response. “We
expect we will see more families arrive once the weather warms. That’s why it’s so important to come
together as a community to share insights and experience and to coordinate resources—now more than

Sitti Ali, a recent refugee, now helps others in Winnipeg.

Sitti Ali, a recent refugee, now helps others in Winnipeg.

“United Way donors already provide ongoing stability for 23 community agencies that support newcomer and
refugee families,” said Connie Walker, CEO of United Way Winnipeg. “That support has made it possible for
these agencies to help as many people as they do every day and every year. But the reality today is that an
influx of refugee claimants has overwhelmed these agencies and that should concern everyone.”

“We realized what was missing was an easy way for people to help,” said Connie Walker, CEO of United
Way Winnipeg. “We also saw a need to coordinate donations of all kinds.” provides a central site to donate money with confidence, knowing United Way will work
closely with community partners to ensure every dollar of their donation goes where it’s needed most and will
make the biggest difference.

In recent years, community agencies at the front lines of caring for newcomers have been asking for more help to support a growing number of refugee and immigrant families coming to Winnipeg – an estimated 3000 in 2016 alone; twice the number of previous years.

While this is a complicated issue with differing opinions on how to approach it as a city, province and country, the response is driven only by the fact that there is a real and urgent human need in our city, and that there are people and organizations that stand ready to help.

“This is not about prioritizing one need in our community over another,” said Baker. “No one, including
community agencies, is putting one group ahead of another. As always they are finding a way to do more and
go further, but there’s only so far they can go without breaking. This is about mobilizing our compassion and
humanity to go further as a community to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

The Province of Manitoba shared that sentiment. “Manitoba has a proud history of welcoming newcomers to
our province and a well-deserved reputation within Canada for our willingness to help those in need,” said
Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart. “On behalf of all Manitobans, our government thanks the United
Way of Winnipeg for leading this community effort. The generous and compassionate response we continue
to see from the entire province—including front-line workers, volunteers and organizations providing direct
services to refugees and refugee claimants—is testament to our shared values as Manitobans.”

Walker emphasized, “Today in Winnipeg there are families who are scared and alone;
strangers in a new country. Together, we can welcome these families and surround them with love,
understanding and hope as they start their journey to build a better life for themselves.”

Sitti Ali, a refugee claimant from Djibouti, knows the desperate situations refugees face, and how hope for a
better life sustains them as they embark on uncertain and dangerous journeys to reach Manitoba. “We are
grateful that we’ve been welcomed by Winnipeggers. It’s made such a difference for us and now we are
helping other newcomers feel welcome.”

“The first 30 days are the most critical,” said Ahmed. “After that, those who receive a refugee hearing
can apply for work permits and get help to become more independent.”