When Natalia first came to Canada as a refugee from Russia, she had no friends, no family, knew no English and had only $20 to her name. Fortunately, she was connected with Kinbrace Community Society for support. Three years later Natalia and her family have a community they call home.
Many come to Canada to find a safe place free of war, political unrest, or discrimination. Central City Foundation strives to support organizations such as Kinbrace, Immigrant Services Society of BC, Kiwassa Neighbourhood House and Collingwood Neighbourhood House Society who help newcomers with basics such as food and shelter, as well as education and access to health care.
Natalia applied for Canadian refugee status when her son, whose father is Afghani, suffered irreparable injuries after being attacked in a hate crime. She left her family to come to Canada where she was later joined by her daughter, then son and husband.
Kinbrace provides housing for over 40 people a year who are in the refugee protection system. They help them gain stability and move to permanent housing by introducing them to much needed resources, such as training programs and language classes.
Each Tuesday, Kinbrace hosts a dinner for residents like Natalia, as well as former residents and volunteers. The meals are prepared by a different resident each week, introducing the community to different culinary traditions.
Central City Foundation donors provided funding to Kinbrace for the purchase of industrial kitchen equipment including a high end blender, food processor, stand mixer and commercial-grade barbecue.
The equipment is available for all their residents to use and supports Kinbrace’s goal to promote long-term social, mental and spiritual health.
“We’ve been very grateful for our partnership with Central City Foundation, and the kitchen equipment we’ve purchased through the the grant has bolstered our capacity to bring people together,” says Loren Balisky, Executive Director of Kinbrace Community Society. “Being together around food is critical not only for survival, but for building friendships and strengthening a sense of identity.”
For Natalia, Kinbrace not only gave her food and shelter, but also an introduction to Canadian life and others in a similar situation.
“The people of Kinbrace have set an example for me and my family,” says Natalia. “I don’t think I realized how much they did for me when I first came to Canada, but I came here with nothing and never felt like I was without.”
Natalia has now moved on from Kinbrace to more permanent housing. She continues to learn English and improve her employment skills. She’s been proud to see both her children grow and find happiness in their new home.
Like many former Kinbrace clients, Natalia stays connected to Kinbrace and still attends the Tuesday evening meals, welcoming newer newcomers to life in Canada.