The City and Community Came Together To Welcome Refugees
July 29, 2016

It has been almost a year since the Surrey Immigrant Advisory Roundtable organized a Welcome to Surrey Centre Block Party. Little did the organizers know how their passion to welcome newcomers in the community will materialize into a City-run event that drew an estimated 500-600 residents. The event organized by immigrant residents in 2015 became a template to follow for City staff to organize a larger welcoming event for refugees in Surrey.

The City of Surrey hosted a Welcome Day for new refugees at City Hall on July 20, 2016. The family oriented event was held to welcome the newcomers and encourage their participation in the community.  Equally important, the Welcome Day provided another opportunity for community engagement between residents and the newcomers to Surrey. The United Way of the Lower Mainland and Vancity Credit Union were generous sponsors of the event.

“We are proud to host this Welcome Day for the new refugees who now call Surrey home,” says Mayor Linda Hepner. “The City of Surrey celebrates its diversity and inclusiveness. The generosity and goodwill the new refugees have come across in Surrey will go a long way in helping them achieve success in our City.” City of Surrey press release

The event would not be possible without many community partners who planned and organized fun activities for new residents. The activities were offered by over 25 community partners and included sports activities, games, face painting, Human Library activity, City Hall tours and others.

Two Syrians spoke at the event sharing their immigration journeys to Canada and settlement experiences in Surrey:

  • Christian Michel Francis, a student from Surrey and a 2016 UBC Centennial Leaders award recipient who received one of the highest GPAs  in his school and volunteered with Fraser Health Authorities to help disabled adults work out in a Surrey gym. Christian also worked two part time jobs to support his family while studying in school.
  • Ebrahim Abo-Korj (a Palestinian-Syrian from Yarmouk camp in Damascus) who arrived to Canada in November 2015 and organized a group of Arabic speaking youth to support and learn from each other (the Ethar Organization group which received a Small Neighbourhood Grant from the Vancouver Foundation this year).

As Surrey LIP we believe that whatever we are doing we always have to think about the legacy and sustainability of our new projects and initiatives. The Surrey Immigrant Advisory Roundtable showed an unprecedented leadership and contagious passion in organizing the "Block Party" in 2015 which resulted in another great welcoming event at a much larger scale. Congratulations to all involved!

See photos from the event