IRCOM's Newcomer Literacy Initiative Students visit Urban Circle Training Centre for International Adult Learners Week - April 2011
20 years supporting newcomers
Since 1991, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) has been providing safe, affordable transitional accommodation for newcomers.
IRCOM House, a 67-suite apartment block in West Alexander has been home to thousands of newcomers from all over the world. Many have spent years in refugee camps and endured the hardships of war, strife and unimaginable poverty. They arrive with a burning desire to forge a successful, peaceful new life in Canada.
For many, the initial euphoria of coming to Canada turns to doubt and even despair as parents cope with culture shock. Their children struggle in the school system and are often targets for gang recruitment. IRCOM offers families much more than a place to live. Staff and volunteers understand the challenges first-hand and support residents through services such as an after-school program, English classes, life-skills training and community-building activities.
ACU supports IRCOM's Asset Building Program by providing Matched Savings Accounts for their participants. IRCOM's ABP is delivered in an 'English as an Additional Language (EAL)' format. Participants' savings are matched 3:1 to help them reach their asset goals like furniture, computers and education.
Residents can stay at IRCOM House for up to three years but it isn't easy to leave such a safe haven. "There is a chronic lack of affordable housing in Winnipeg," says Dorota Blumczynska, IRCOM's Executive Director. "Departing families would be fortunate to find half the apartment at twice the price." But from the early days of their tenancy IRCOM fosters independence and helps them take the next step to move on, and many residents now leave before their three-year limit is up. "Given support and encouragement, people find a way because they are the strongest of the strong" says Dorota. "IRCOM has given them everything we can, most importantly the knowledge that we believe they have the ability to start beautiful new lives."
IRCOM's holistic model has been so successful that a second IRCOM House with 60 more units will open in 2013. IRCOM has been a first chapter in the stories of thousands of new Canadians. Those stories will be celebrated at a special Immigration Celebration on Sunday, June 26 at Central Park. ACU is proud to sponsor the event and to have played a role in IRCOM's work to extend a hand of friendship to new Canadians.