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ISSofBC awarded grant to support diversity initiatives in Tri-Cities


ISSofBC was awarded the 8th Annual Coquitlam Crunch Diversity Grant last Saturday during opening ceremonies of the Coquitlam Crunch Challenge. Employer Relations Specialist Gesow Azam accepted the award on ISSofBC’s behalf from officials of the Coquitlam Foundation and Alex Bell of the Community Diversity Fund.

The grant is awarded to non-profit or community groups that support diversity initiatives and promote inclusion in the Tri-cities area. Grant funds are raised by fitness enthusiasts participating in the workout trail of the Coquitlam Crunch which is often referred to as Coquitlam’s version of the Grouse Grind.

ISSofBC will use the $800-grant towards helping new immigrants find employment by connecting them to employers in the Tri-cities community.

Our thanks to Alex Bell and the Coquitlam Foundation for this valuable grant!

Here’s more info on the Coquitlam Foundation.

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Vancouver Art Gallery connects young immigrants and refugees to world of art


Newcomer youth expressed their creativity with pastels using the inspiration of renowned artist Emily Carr during a tour and workshop at the Vancouver Art Gallery July 18 and August 1.

Over 10 youth clients, staff and volunteers from the ISSofBC Welcome Centre Youth Hub first visited the gallery for a guided tour to explore paintings by Claude Monet, Emily Carr and many other influential artists.

The second visit participants created their own works of art through a hands-on workshop. The group learned about the life of Emily Carr and her painting style before each participant was given a canvas and pastel and asked to create his or her own art drawings inspired from the collection.

“It was a trip of many ‘firsts’ for our newcomer youth and tweens—the first visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery, the first exposure to Emily Carr and other Canadian and international artists, and the first time to create their own oil pastel art work. The Vancouver Art Gallery educators were excellent in guiding our youth through the exhibits and the oil pastel drawing process,” said Bea David Youth Site Manager for the ISSofBC Welcome Centre Youth Hub.

The ISSofBC Youth Hub supports young immigrants and refugees in their settlement, integration, leadership development and civic engagement. The Youth Hub offers a range of supports and services including workshops, drop-ins, as well as arts, sports and recreation programming.

A special thank you to the staff at the Vancouver Art Gallery for this wonderful opportunity.

More information about current events at the Youth Hub including an open house August 31.

View photos from the tour and workshop.

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Newcomers discover joy of cycling

HUB.ISS.Bike Host Program

The first project of its kind in Vancouver, the ISSofBC and Hub Cycling Newcomer Bike Host program, helps newcomers get oriented to Vancouver’s cycling routes, rules, and culture while having fun exploring the city by bike.

Newcomers receive cycling education at the start of the program to learn basic rules of the road, traffic safety and practical experience cycling with trained instructors. Then they are matched with local volunteers to go on weekly outings. Over the course of three months, matches choose what activities and cycling trips they want to take part in based on the newcomers’ interests and goals.

“Settling in a new city can be an overwhelming experience,” said HUB Cycling’s Bike Education Manager, Alyshia Burak. “By building cycling knowledge and skills, newcomers are introduced to an affordable, healthy and convenient way to explore their new home and build connections.”

The program celebrated the success of its first summer in operations last night during an outdoor picnic at John Hendry (Trout Lake) Park with participants sharing their pedal adventures.

Zohreh, a recent immigrant from Iran, said meeting her goal of cycling from her home to language classes at ISSofBC Welcome Centre was a prized achievement.

“I cycled in Iran, but women can bicycle only in women’s only parks.”

With the support of volunteers Berni and Lucy who have been meeting weekly with Zohreh since April to help build her skills and confidence, Zoreh managed to cycle a little bit further each week, until she made the trip up to ISSofBC.

“My self-confidence goes up,” said Zoreh, adding, “I thought I could not go up the Cambie Bridge, but now I know I can. I have learned to go through traffic and also not to fall.”

The Bike Host program, which is funded by the City of Vancouver’s Greenest City Fund and TransLink, is running two three-month sessions for its first year, and is expected to reach over 40 newcomers and involve over 30 volunteers.

View photos from the Trout Lake celebration.

In the News

August 6 – New Canadians learn to cycle the city in Vancouver bike host program – CBC News

August 7 – Newcomers jump into cycling culture with bike orientation program – Vancouver Metro

August 13 – The success of a Vancouver program that familiarizes new Canadians with city by bike – Canadian Cycling Magazine

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VPL provides first connection to community programs

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The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) information table at ISSofBC Welcome Centre is more than a place to check out books, it’s a first connection for newcomers to VPL’s diverse community programming offering everything from English language conversation circles to youth cooking groups.

Community Librarian Shenuri Nugawila, Information Services Michelle Patenaude and Brian Peaslee drop by ISSofBC Welcome Centre once a month to share information on VPL programs and events, give out library cards, and offer free materials for all ages such a novels, dictionaries, DVDs, comics and children’s books.

Since the partnership began close to a year ago with ISSofBC, Nugawila said many newcomers they connect with are surprised by the array of programming offered.

“We generally ask them what they are interested in finding out about. Some are looking for English language conversation and many don’t realize all the programs are free and what the community has to offer.”

The library information table at ISSofBC Welcome Centre is set up at the main reception area and is open to clients of organizations visiting or staying at the centre including the Inland Refugee Society, Vancouver Association of Survivors of Torture (VAST), Settlement Orientation Services (SOS), Mount Pleasant Family Centre Society and the Welcome Centre Medical Clinic.

For information about the monthly visit dates, contact us at or visit

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