Services help newcomers navigate the transition to rural community life

by Stella Shepard

Moving to a new country can be very stressful to newcomers as they secure employment, find affordable housing and transportation, register their children in school, navigate the healthcare system, and face other challenges.

PEI Community Navigators assists newcomers from other countries and Canadian provinces by creating inclusive and welcoming communities and assisting with challenges newcomers face in rural communities.

CBDC West Prince Ventures Ltd. in Alberton received funding for a one-year pilot program in 2019 to support population growth in rural PEI by helping newcomers become part of the community. In the spring of 2020, the program expanded to include the Central and Eastern regions of PEI.

“PEI Community Navigators assist with growing the rural population by supporting new residents who come here through immigration as skilled or unskilled, temporary or permanent, and interprovincial or international newcomers, including refugees,” says Maxine Rennie, Project Lead and Executive Director of Community Business Development Corporation (CBDC West Prince Ventures  Ltd.).

“The role of the Community Navigator is to support the community and new residents and bring everyone together. Without community support, we will not be able to retain new residents and grow the workforce.”

The navigators assist with the following:

  • Grow the population in the most inclusive way possible
  • Welcome residents who are new to rural PEI
  • Listen to experiences of moving and living here
  • Assist new residents during their transition and help find information on needs and local services
  • Support to rural employers
  • Assist with becoming the most welcoming areas of PEI as they build communities together

“I have been networking with municipalities and telling them about the program and the needs of newcomers to the area,” says Lindee Gallant.  “We have been sharing the “Welcoming Communities Planning Guide” developed by the province, which is a valuable tool for communities and organizations in welcoming newcomers.”

Each region has a Steering Committee comprised of representatives from local municipalities, government partners, community organizations, and new residents.   The committee acts as a touchpoint for collecting and distributing information and resources relevant to new residents and existing communities alike, with the goal of retaining new residents to grow the workforce in rural PEI and support the rural economy.

“We have a large population of Temporary Foreign Workers in agriculture and seafood processing plants across the Island,” says Lindee. “As well, Canadians from other provinces work in various sectors on the Island.”

“Often times Temporary Foreign Workers come here and eventually become Permanent Residents, where they look to stay and integrate into life on PEI,” adds Scott Smith.  “The new residents say rural PEI is a good place to raise their children and they appreciate the kinship of neighbours and the peacefulness of rural PEI.

“It’s been very rewarding working with communities and building on their existing efforts,” says Peggy Miles.  “Bringing new community members and long-time residents together is an opportunity for individual growth and community growth.  The supports they offer one another serve to strengthen everyone’s quality of life.”

Read the full article here.