Refugees

ISANS celebrates 35th anniversary with open house

Despite a pending influx of refugees from Syria, the organization will continue to help all immigrants.

Open house attendees leave a message for future refugee arrivals.
Open house attendees leave a message for future refugee arrivals.   Guillaume Lapointe-Gagner

The Immigrant Settlement Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) opened its doors for its annual open house on Thursday, but emphasized the event was for everyone, not just Syrian refugees.

Thursday also marked ISANS’s 35th anniversary. Sherry Redden, manager of the workforce and integration team, said the organization was first created to deal with refugees following the Vietnam War.

At that time, the organization welcomed the Vietnamese boat people who were fleeing the country as a result of the conflict.

As the years went by, Redden said the organization helped thousands more, including refugees from Kosovo in 1999.

“Now, we’re working with the province and other major organizations to support bringing the refugees in from Syria,” she said.

Redden said there’s a heightened sense of awareness surrounding refugees this year, largely due to the Syrian refugee crisis, but she emphasized that the organization won’t just work with Syrians.

Masi Shad is an immigrant who came from Iran four years ago. He uses ISANS services to learn English and to acquire skills needed in the Canadian workplace.

He said he wants to encourage immigrants to take more jobs in fields they are comfortable in.

“We need to encourage immigrants to go and take jobs for production, for agricultural areas, for the factories, not only the basic job,” Shad said.

Ethiopian refugee Megia Lauyo also expressed his gratitude to ISANS. In the year and a half he has lived in Canada, ISANS taught him English and provided him with a place he can call home.

“The future is good for me,” said Lauyo.

Merek Jagielski, ISANS’s interpretation and translation services coordinator, said many of the people at the event might be coming because of the Syrian refugee issue, but ISANS is an organization that works with all immigrants.

“Maybe in the next few months our focus will be on Syrians because we are the leading settlement agency in Nova Scotia, and we work for the government of Nova Scotia on the resettlement project, but it doesn’t mean that other clients, other nationalities, other groups, will be excluded,” said Jagielski.

“For us it will be business as usual.”