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Opening Doors, Changing Lives: Your Support Welcomes Refugees

People gather at a holiday party.
Courtesy of COSTI

This week we’re talking about welcoming refugees, inclusive neighbourhoods, and celebrating Asian and Jewish Heritage Months.

Dear Friend,

In the past few years, our United Way community has rallied to support newcomers from Afghanistan and Ukraine—and the impact has been remarkable. As conflicts around the world continue to displace people, we’re proud to contribute to a GTA that continues to welcome.

Just a glimpse into that critical work. On March 1, 2022, in response to the urgent need to support an influx of Afghans, we launched the Afghan Resettlement Fund, in partnership with the City of Toronto and Lifeline Afghanistan. With your support, nearly $400,000 was distributed to settlement organizations to increase their capacity to provide comprehensive supports for refugees, including for housing, child and youth programming, mental health, employment, and service navigation, with nearly 6,000 people served.

One service user fleeing Kabul had no friends or relatives here as she searched for a home. After nights in temporary shelters, she was referred to United Way-funded Skills for Change. “I met a smiling staff who started talking to me in Dari,” she recalls. “I felt very comfortable meeting a Dari-speaking staff because my English was not good. He presented information about the programs and services at SfC and arranged follow-up meetings to update me about the housing program, and with the support from Skills for Change, I was able to find an affordable place to rent.”

Similar stories continue to be shared with us around Ukrainian settlement, with United Way-funded COSTI alone placing over 700 people in homes over the past year, in addition to the other settlement services they provide. They also never lost sight of the need for social supports—conducting wellness checks, connecting clients with similar experiences, and inviting families to social events like a Ukranian holiday party. “We will never forget what you and your employees have done for my family,” one newcomer said. “You help out when we need it most. Not only that, you invited us to events where we could have a good time…. I can’t thank you enough.”

It’s the network that works together to make newcomers feel at ease. It’s the newcomers who so quickly volunteer as interpreters, tutors, and mentors themselves. It’s the supporters, like you, who step up when people are at their most vulnerable. If and when Canada opens its doors for refugees from Sudan and other conflict zones, I know our communities and our network of love and support will be waiting. Thank you for ensuring that we are always in a position to welcome—in a united way.

Always, and only, thank you. 

Daniele Zanotti
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto

Things to Know Right Now

Image of the Toronto skyline with the words ‘2023 Toronto Mayoral Debate’ and the logos of Toronto Metropolitan University, Toronto Star and United Way Greater Toronto along the bottom.

Mayoral Debate

We’re hosting a mayoral debate, in partnership with Toronto Metropolitan University and The Toronto Star, on May 31 to give voters the chance to hear candidates’ plans regarding Toronto’s most pressing social and economic issues. The debate will be moderated by The Star columnist Edward Keenan and the audience will include community sector leaders and people with lived experience of poverty and related issues. The debate will be livestreamed on The Star’s homepage.

Learn more about the candidates through The Local’s Candidate Tracker and stay tuned for information about pre-debate community engagement events!

Inclusive Neighbourhoods

Our region has been experiencing unprecedented growth, even faster than was predicted just a few years ago. That growth has added pressures on housing, the social services sector, transportation, and more, and these are felt even more deeply at the neighbourhood level. As more development and revitalization projects keep pace with this growth, costs for housing and other necessities increase, driving long-time residents and businesses away as they look for more affordable areas. But, as our President and CEO Daniele Zanotti and Director of Research, Public Policy and Evaluation Isabel Cascante write in a new op-ed, development and gentrification are not synonymous. “When equity principles are layered into planning, local growth and development can spur positive neighbourhood change that results in more inclusive communities—places that have robust social and physical infrastructure, where residents from diverse backgrounds and circumstances can enjoy meaningful participation in civic life, financial stability and affordable housing.”

Update from the Frontlines

A variety of piñatas including one of Peppa Pig and one of a minion

Employment Social Enterprise

The United Way-supported employment social enterprise Smashing Good Piñatas went on Breakfast Television to speak about their customizable handmade piñatas, all handcrafted with sustainable materials by their team made up of artists with developmental disabilities who often face workplace barriers. They can personalize and customize a piñata for any occasion.

Get Involved

The words ‘Annual and Special Meeting of the Members, June 22,2023’ written in white over a red background. There is an announcement of the keynote speaker as former Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi along with his image. The United Way Greater Toronto logo in the bottom left corner.

2023 Annual and Special Meeting of the Members

Join us at our virtual 2023 Annual and Special Meeting of the Members on June 22 to learn more about the progress we are making together. This year, we’ll be welcoming former Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi as our keynote speaker and will hear his thoughts on city building and the challenges and hope of creating truly inclusive communities. Register now.

Asian and Jewish Heritage Month

May marks both Asian and Jewish Heritage Months, an opportunity to celebrate the incredible diversity and contributions of these communities, with events and opportunities taking place across the region.

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

Trans and gender-diverse people face higher rates of violence, discrimination and self-harm in Canada than their cisgender counterparts. This is why recognizing the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia on May 17 is so important. Join United Way-funded The 519 and their Army of Lovers for a prance and protest at Barbara Hall Park, May 17.

Toronto Newcomer Day

The City of Toronto’s Newcomer Day at Nathan Phillips Square provides access to a wide range of services and celebrates newcomers’ contributions to the city. The May 25 event will feature activities and entertainment, including an information fair where several United Way-funded agencies will be stationed.

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