“Everybody is ready to support—always.”

November 16, 2023


After escaping the war in Ukraine, Yuliia found more than a job at a donor-supported agency—she found a family.

Yuliia gazes at the rainbow of names written in colourful chalk, each one followed by a job position and workplace.

“We update it every month,” she says, explaining the growing roster celebrates new Winnipeggers who found jobs that month with the guidance of the Immigrant Centre Manitoba.

For over 70 years, the Immigrant Centre has welcomed and walked beside newcomers who enrich our community in so many ways with tremendous skills, perspectives, and knowledge.

“Very good people work here,” shared Yuliia, who joined the team over a year ago. “The atmosphere is very friendly. Everybody is ready to support—always. I feel it all the time.”

Yuliia knows first-hand how much the Immigrant Centre means to someone starting over in a new part of the world. Just a year ago, her name was scrawled across the very same chalkboard when she landed a job in Winnipeg after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“My family and I were forced to escape, leaving behind all our possessions in Ukraine,” she said. “It was very scary. We left, not knowing what lay ahead.”

A row of Ukrainian flags with the word "help" hanging neatly on a bridge
More than 24,000 Ukrainian refugees have come to Manitoba since the war began in February 2022.

“We didn't have time to think what to take. It was like a nightmare.”

It was a Thursday when Yuliia woke up to the terrifying sound of explosions.

Frantically grabbing her phone, her eyes widened at the alarming messages flooding a group chat for parents: “What is happening?” “Can you hear it?” “I can’t believe it started.”

Yuliia, too, was in disbelief.

“I can’t even explain what I felt that day,” she mused. “Nobody believed it would happen in reality.”

Within a day, Yuliia and her family fled Ukraine by car to save their lives.

“We didn’t have time to think what to take,” explained Yuliia. “It was like a nightmare.”

A few months later, the family applied for a special visa offering Ukrainians free, extended temporary status in Canada.

“By July 2022, we embraced Canada as our new home,” said Yuliia. “The Canadian government’s support was invaluable.”

So was the help Yuliia found at the Immigrant Centre—a welcoming place where she could find kinship with fellow newcomers while accessing free settlement services and resources. Over half the staff are newcomers, speaking dozens of languages and creating a deep sense of solidarity as they build relationships with clients.

Yuliia, dressed in a peach sweater, stands outside of the Immigrant Centre office.
“I like gaining more experience here to have more chances in the future,” said Yuliia. “I heard a lot of good things about life in Canada, about how it treats immigrants and that it’s a wonderful place to live."

“We believe all newcomers deserve fair opportunities,” said colleague Maria Silva, who began working as an executive assistant at the Immigrant Centre after moving from Chile a few years ago.

“Our vision is to change lives for the better, one newcomer at a time.”

She explained how daunting it can be to leave everything behind—your loved ones, culture, and traditions—to start over in a new country.

Yet, not speaking English or knowing how to open a bank account is only the tip of the iceberg. There are real fears for survival, too.

Immigrants and refugees are at a greater risk of poverty—even if they have stronger educational backgrounds than Canadian-born residents. In Winnipeg, hundreds of Ukrainian families worry about hunger and rely on food banks each week to get by.

That’s why caring United Way Winnipeg donors support the Immigrant Centre and a network of agencies helping newcomers find work, meet basic needs, and build community so they can meaningfully adapt and thrive.

To help smooth their resettlement journey, the Immigrant Centre wraps multiple supports around newcomers as they find their feet, such as help finding housing and work, getting ID and a driver’s license, cooking with Canadian ingredients, budgeting for nutritious food, and learning English.

A client at Immigrant Centre sits with her English tutor, a small stack of English textbooks in front of them.
Immigrant Centre helps smooth the journey of resettlement for newcomers by offering free language lessons so clients can feel comfortable navigating social situations and find work. About 80% of their clients find employment within the first three months.

“Our vision is to change lives for the better, one newcomer at a time.”

Knowing how urgently newcomers need to find a steady source of income, the Immigrant Centre specializes in coaching and training clients to prepare for the Manitoban workforce.

Bolstered by free employment services—from job interviews and resume workshops to food handling and customer service training—80% of clients find jobs within the first three months.

In Yuliia’s case, it was barely a matter of weeks. She arrived on the Immigrant Centre’s doorstep as a client in mid-October—and by the end of the month, she was on staff.

Yuliia started assisting with language training, then gradually progressed into other roles, helping fellow Ukrainians find housing, documentation, and employment.

“It’s a real support,” she said. “They are very thankful.”

With the support of generous United Way Winnipeg donors, the Immigrant Centre serves more than 20,000 newcomers to Manitoba every year. In the past fiscal year, nearly half of their clients were Ukrainians newcomers.

"It's like home here."

As Yuliia’s family settled, they were delighted to meet so many Winnipeggers with Ukrainian roots. Out of all the provinces, Manitoba has the largest proportion of Ukrainian-identifying people.

“It’s like home here,” laughed Yuliia.

She’s equally impressed by her new city’s multiculturalism, too. Winnipeg is home to Canada’s largest urban Indigenous population and has the highest percentage of Filipino communities. And by 2041, newcomers could make up about a third of the nation’s population.

Yet as immigration trends continue to rise, so does the need for settlement services like those offered at the Immigrant Centre.

Every year, the agency serves 20,000+ clients—and in the past year, nearly half of them were from Ukraine. More Ukrainians per capita have come to Manitoba than any other province.

“We have a tremendous backlog and waiting list,” explained Maria, expressing deep gratitude for United Way Winnipeg donors whose gifts mean the Centre can hire skilled staff like Yuliia to keep up with the demand as much as possible.

“It’s thanks to the help of United Way Winnipeg,” she said. “They truly know where to put the funding where it can do the most good.”

A group of students learning English together, sitting around tables as the instructor points at a list of questions projected on a large screen.
Canada is a mosaic of vibrant cultures, rich traditions, and diverse people, built on its long-standing legacy of welcoming immigrants and refugees across the globe. And by 2041, newcomers could make up about a third of our population.

"I'm happy to be part of the family."

As Yuliia and her family prepare for their second prairie winter, it’s the compassion of Winnipeggers that brings them warmth and comfort.

In their first days in Winnipeg, the family noticed the cars had license plates saying “Friendly Manitoba”—and they knew they were in the right place!

For Yuliia, who misses many loved ones living with the burden of war back in Ukraine, it’s heartening to find not only a safe place like the Immigrant Centre to live and work—but a community to belong.

“Throughout this journey, my gratitude for the Immigrant Centre’s support only grows,” said Yuliia. “I’m happy to be a part of the family.”


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