World Refugee Day Spotlight: Kinbrace’s story


June 20, 2023, marks World Refugee Day—a time to pay tribute to the courageous newcomers and to honor their contributions and the communities that support them. At Vancity, we believe that this important day extends beyond just one day. We hold a deep understanding of the significance of community and the importance of inclusivity. That’s why we’re proud to support organizations like Kinbrace—an organization that welcomes and empowers refugee claimants with open arms, providing them with the support they need to rebuild their lives on an ongoing basis. So, grab a cup of tea, as we dive into the inspiring work they do and learn how you can get involved. 

Q: How does your organization support refugees in Vancouver?

K: At Kinbrace, we open our doors to refugee claimants, providing them with housing, education, and unwavering support. Our mission is fueled by five core values that bring our community to life: welcome, trust, mutual transformation, celebration, and prayer. These values shape everything we do and creates an inclusive environment.

Q: Can you explain the financial support and resources available to refugees through the Vancity partnership?

K: Vancity is a long-time partner in support of refugee claimants. Commercial Drive Vancity branch piloted opening bank accounts for under-documented refugee claimants post 9/11 and provided permanent residence application loans with Kinbrace residents—both of which are now standard offers across the province for refugee claimants.  

Today, refugee claimants are able to open a bank account, get a permanent residence application loan, and a credit card thanks to Vancity, in partnership with Kinbrace. 

Currently, Vancity is partnering with Kinbrace on two projects: 

  1. The Transforming Employment Narratives Project bring together employers, people with lived refugee claimant experience, HR professionals, and settlement workers. Together, we dive into topics such as systems change, power and identity, the refugee claim journey, trauma informed care, discrimination in hiring and the workplace, and more. The goal is to change preconceived notions that we might have of one another. Together we can break down barriers that keep refugee claimants under-employed, and to find a better way forward for refugee claimants and employers to thrive and flourish. 
  2. The Beyond Refuge Project implements two of the nine recommendations put forward in the 2021 “From Humanitarian to Human: Changing the Way We Welcome Refugee Claimants” research and report, by taking a strengths-based and systems transformation approach. The project involves hosting five, public, free Becoming Neighbours workshops where participants (those with and without lived refugee experience) are invited to explore time-tested values that lead to belonging and safety in a world increasingly marked by forced displacement. Click here to learn more and register. 

Q: What types of services do you offer to help refugees start a new life in Vancouver?

K: The Kinbrace community launched in 1998 to meet the desperate housing needs of refugee claimants. These individuals arrive in Canada seeking protection as refugees, without anyone to greet them unlike resettled refugees. At Kinbrace, our transitional housing model brings Canadians and refugee claimants together as neighbors, fostering a shared community. We offer support including community, housing, wellness, employment, and refugee protection. Our ongoing community connection and transformation are offered through the Beyond Refuge program.

“Kinbrace’s transitional housing model is Canadians living with refugee claimants, side by side, as neighbours.”

Q: Do you provide language and cultural orientation programs to help them integrate into Canadian society?

K: The multilingual Kinbrace staff team is proactive and responsive to residents in their own language, fostering cultural orientation through relationships. Refugee claimants thrive when known and recognized for who they are. Similarly, Canadians flourish when accompanying those seeking refuge, resulting in a welcoming Canadian society. The Beyond Refuge Companion program creates meaningful connections between refugee claimants and Canadians. 

Q: Are there any mentorship or skills development programs available to help with their employability?

K: Transforming Employment Narratives project brings refugee claimants, employers, HR professionals, and settlement workers together to help spark systems change for refugee claimants’ employment through mutual transformation and shifting mindsets.

“Our dream for each refugee is a world of welcome, a community of belonging and a life of opportunity.”

How can individuals or businesses in the community get involved and support your mission?

  • Businesses are encouraged to join the Transforming Employment Narratives program; application are open. Find out more and register here.
  • Individuals are invited to participate in the 2023 Becoming Neighbours Workshops to explore time-tested values that lead to belonging and safety in a world increasingly marked by forced displacement.
  • To join in with community life as volunteer or companion, visit our volunteer page.

Since the 1990s, Vancity has opened bank accounts for more than 12,000 refugees. Through Vancity’s Refugee Assistance Program, we’re continuously creating tailored services to support the banking needs of newcomers, refugees, and displaced people. Read more here. 

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