The annual Faith and Welcoming Communities Forum provides a platform for forming collaborations, partnerships and connections between faith groups and settlement agencies that work in helping newcomers with their settlement process. The 2023 Faith Forum took place on Thursday June 15th at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in North York. The event was livestreamed for those who could not make it in-person and is available to watch here.
This year’s theme was Post-Pandemic Resilience and Community Integration. This Inter-LIP event and community-wide forum aims to bring newcomer service providers and the faith community together to facilitate stronger relationships and collaborations. Both sectors are immensely vital in serving the newcomers in Toronto, and we use this forum to bridge gaps and foster networks to better serve newcomers. This year, over 150 member partners and community stakeholders were in attendance. Individuals from over 65 different newcomer service provider organizations and a wide variety of faith communities came together to collaborate and discuss how to best serve newcomers.
TNLIP aims to support all branches of the newcomer-serving community to connect with each other on the most pressing issues, so that innovative solutions can be implemented together as a community. This forum’s plenary session focused on building resilience to promote collective well-being, with important thought leaders in our sector. The forum also explored themes such as healing from mental health affects, effectively serving newcomers in this new world, and strengthening collaborations between faith groups and newcomer settlement organizations. The newcomer serving community joined together us a time to learn, share and discuss promising practices and inventive ideas with each other.
This year’s forum provided the faith community a platform to have their voices heard. The diligent work of faith organizations in using their resources to help newcomers, such as with social isolation issues or by filling in the gaps left by exclusion criteria faced by newcomer SPO, was brought to the light. A key success story from faith forum involves the heart-warming story of a pastor who gave respect to the loss of undocumented newcomers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The value of faith communities when aiding undocumented clients was emphasized as they are able to step in and provide services to newcomers without the pressure of status labels. It is this type of care and kindness for all newcomers we hope to project into the community.
Faith communities and service providers are encouraged to work together, learn from each other, and pool resources to boost service and address the needs of all newcomers. The goal is for both domains of service to help each other find innovative solutions and serve the community, while achieving their own similar objectives. In honor of this, through this year’s faith forum, TNLIP released it first of a kind “contact sharing form” where all newcomer serving providers can fill in their name, contact info, agency or organization, and services provided. This form was a first step to create a centralized platform where individuals could find others they can collaborate with in a mutually beneficial way. Our follow up indicates the need for more work to increase collaboration. Many individuals left with new contacts in their network. Multiple attendees mentioned that they would connect further with those they met, and discuss working together on key issues brought up such as need for trauma care, increased mental health supports, lack of health coverage for certain clientele, creating safe spaces for education, and increasing cultural understanding for newcomers. Increased capacity building for front line staff and information sharing channels for effective communication between parties was highlighted.
Faith Forum allowed for a space that initiates conversation and planning around the intersection of the two sectors of newcomer SPO and faith communities, both vital to successful settlement. The issues within faith communities are raised, leadership in the area is brought together, Quadrant LIPs work to solve the issues and bring resources together. A dialogue on the best practices of service coordination between faith and non-faith organizations is established through the Faith Forum, such that service delivery and referral processes between both can be improved. It was a great opportunity for newcomer service providers and faith communities – both sectors vital to helping newcomers – to promote collective well being and strengthen partnerships.