Canada has welcomed Syrian refugees with a host of services supporting the newcomers’ needs and helping them build new lives in their adopted country.
But they often arrive with trauma-informed challenges and housing, clothing, food and training may not be enough.
In March 2016 Citizenship and Immigration Canada granted funding for Sistering to run a pilot project with refugee Syrian women. We partnered with Gerstein Crisis Centre to run WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) workshops as train-the-trainer programs.
Similar to the Sistering model, WRAP is based on a recovery-oriented mental health framework that explores lived experience, insights and the significance of community connection for participants with mental health issues.
Women who participate in WRAP sessions create a wellness toolbox identifying their individual psychological resources and take control of their recovery by developing their own plan for healing.
Through this process Syrian refugees learned about the community resources available to support them in addressing recent trauma as well as those required to facilitate integration to Toronto.
Participants have created a language and cultural specific group and continue building community with Sistering support and space to meet. The program works: several organizations in the city supporting Syrian community members are requesting our support to run WRAP sessions in their organizations.
Many Spanish-speaking participants have experienced violence, displacement and abuse. By participating in a culture specific group, women increase their chance of recovery, reducing stigma, discrimination, social isolation and loneliness. Participants have shared that taking part in Spanish Group creates a sense of belonging to a larger supportive community that offers tools for recovery and possibilities for change both physically and emotionally. Participants build resiliency and increase self-confidence and self-esteem, learning how to assert their right to affordable housing, employment and community inclusion.
This support group, offered in both Mandarin and Cantonese, facilitates group conversations about health, world events, Canadian customs and social services. Guest speakers are often invited, too, and members take part in a variety of group outings and special activities. Learn more
This group, open to all women, launched eight years ago with a mandate to support women who have experienced trauma with prescribed discussion topics including setting boundaries, practicing self care and living with depression.
As the group evolved, members voted for a less formal structure. Each week, the group decides on discussion topics that might deal with health issues, personal challenges around which a member needs support or even concerns about global conflict. Social recreation outings are also planned.
Sisters Supporting Sisters meets every Wednesday at the 24/7 Drop In from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm.