The Immigrant Welcome Centre’s Welcoming Communities Coalition invites the public to its annual Community Forum to share their experiences and ideas around how the Comox Valley community can be more welcoming to immigrants and refugees. ADOBE STOCK IMAGE

Upcoming forum to discuss how the Comox Valley can be more welcoming to newcomers

The Immigrant Welcome Centre’s Welcoming Communities Coalition invites the public to its annual Community Forum – and this time, they are doing community engagement a little differently.

New and long-time residents of the Valley are invited to the Sept. 15 event to share their experiences and ideas around how the Comox Valley community can be more welcoming to immigrants and refugees.

This year, Liz Wootton from Comox Valley-based Human Nature Development will facilitate the forum using a Ketso workshop. Ketso is an interactive tool kit where participants write their thoughts on “leaves” to create clusters of ideas.

“Using this method, participants can work in parallel and no one feels left out as they might in a typical participation process where they would be asked to speak out,” coalition co-ordinator Julie Keumbehdjian explains. “Ketso really encourages dialogue between different groups of people and ensures everyone’s voice is heard.”

The Welcoming Communities Coalition wants to hear from immigrants, refugees, and other members of the community about the needs, gaps, and challenges faced when settling in the Valley.

The learnings from this forum will build on the coalition’s 2020 Needs Assessment research project, which found that 46 per cent of respondents often or sometimes felt isolated in their first years on the North Island. In addition to making social connections, another main challenge to settlement identified in the report included barriers to employment such as language and the lack of recognition of foreign credentials.

“We are looking forward to hearing first-hand from a diverse group of residents about how we can make our community more welcoming, and to learn if others’ experiences settling here align with our research,” Keumbehdjian says.

The Immigrant Welcome Centre envisions a region where newcomers feel welcome, safe and respected. Last year, it served more than 800 clients in the North Island representing more than 90 countries of origin. The coalition’s work is funded by Immigration, Refugees & Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The Comox Valley Community Forum is free to attend. Advanced registration is required as space is limited.

The Sept. 15 forum takes place at the Comox Valley Presbyterian Church (725 Aspen Rd.) from 2-4:30 p.m. Register for free at: CVCommunityForum.eventbrite.com

Learn more at immigrantwelcome.ca/

Community LeadershipComox ValleyImmigrationrefugee

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