The province announced last week that it would be investing $5.1 million in 15 organizations to support settlement services for newcomers and Eastman Immigrant Services (E.I.S.) is one of the recipients.
Gwen Reimer, E.I.S. Program Director says they filled out the forms, explaining what they do and how they will be spending the money. Reimer says, “We gave them data of what we've done in the past, what we foresee is going to happen in the future and then requested a certain dollar amount. They honoured that, and we are very excited about being able to put that money to good use and serve the newcomers that are going to be settling here in our region”.
Although the dollar amount allocated to E.I.S. is still to be announced, she says for now they will continue doing what they are doing which is “serving the newcomers that come into our office. These newcomers need to settle into our region and of course, we are always looking at how can we help these newcomers integrate into our region and make it home for them.”
Reimer says, their main goal when meeting a newcomer to the area is to create a relationship with them. “Many of our settlement workers and staff love the stories that come out of their client meetings. It's not even just a matter of helping them with an application. We will notice that a staff person will spend an hour with a client, where it would have only taken 5 minutes to fill out the application form, but instead, they've listened to that person's story. And that's huge. Then there’s helping them find a job or even starting a business. We've seen that happen and it’s just so exciting to watch them make this region their home.”
With the possibility of several families from Ukraine coming to the Eastman region, Reimer says they will need to hire more staff. ” And so, essentially what this funding is going to do for us, is that it will allow us to hire another person to be able to serve the people that are coming. We are always busy. We are always talking to clients, whether it's by appointment or walk-ins. And this money is just going to give us that one extra staff member to be able to serve the clients that are currently coming and that we expect to be coming.”
Michelle Bezditny, Executive director of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce says, “We are very, very excited to have received this funding.”
She says, “If our partnership wasn't so intentional, if the Steinbach Chamber didn't oversee Eastman immigrant services, we wouldn't have been eligible. But we know that our intentional partnership is a benefit not only for our community but for our region as a whole. The mandates are very different, but our unique approach to incorporating the business world and the settlement services world is something that we have recognized. Our community is diverse and we celebrate that. We are a welcoming community and it's through this intentional partnership and ongoing conversations between Gwen (Reimer) and me that we recognize that integrating newcomers, welcoming newcomers, settling newcomers, and what all that involves is a benefit for our community at large and also our business community.”
“Our businesses need a skilled workforce and new commerce. Once they've landed here they require employment, so that relationship, that partnership is very obvious. And as newcomers begin to get integrated and they've chosen Eastman, wherever in Eastman they have chosen to call home, we know that that impacts are equal. Our economy is driven by newcomer settlement as it provides a valued workforce and we're just honoured to integrate these newcomers and be a part of their settlement process.”
Bezditny continues and responds to Steinbach Chamber and Eastman Immigrant Services being recognized by the province to receive funding, she says “without question, it is a huge compliment and a huge affirmation about the ongoing successful efforts of what our organizations, the Steinbach Chamber and Eastman Immigrant Services have done and continues to do and taking that proactive approach in settlement services."
She says, "without this funding, we wouldn't be able to do this work and we recognize our responsibility and we know, as I was reminded just recently in a conversation about our people, all people I guess in general, are our greatest asset. So, when you invest in people, your community thrives. So, this funding speaks to that very directly, very intently. And investing in these people, in connecting with newcomers, we are just thrilled and honoured that the Steinbach Chamber and Eastman immigrant services was considered and approved.”