Umoja Operation Compassion Society of British Columbia was founded in 2002 with a mission to help refugees and immigrants adjust to life in Canada. Adjusting to life in a new country, a new language and new cultural norms, can be challenging. Umoja has become an advocate and a support system for many families. Providing education and a sense of community via the delivery of unique, diverse programs and initiatives, Umoja strives to guide newcomers to integrate and contribute to a healthy society.
On behalf of our board of directors, we would like to affirm our support and stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement; a movement that has become a voice for Black, Indigenous, people of colour and marginalized groups globally.
Systemic racism represents one of the many challenges that our clients at Umoja face. Racist or unfair treatment comes in many forms: stereotyping, lowered expectations within school systems and workplaces, bullying and harassment by peers and those in authority, misunderstanding and mistreatment by social services and within the justice system, police racial profiling, targeting young adults in minority communities, affordable housing availability that fails to accommodate differently structured families, and workplace discrimination, to name a few. These challenges cannot be dismissed. They create an environment of mistrust amongst communities and highlight the relevance of the Black Lives Matter movement to us, here in Canada. With that said, Umoja strongly believes that Canada has the potential to take a lead in dismantling systemic racism, making the world more equitable and sustainable for all.
Umoja does not support defunding the police in Surrey. We believe that, in order to restore trust between law enforcement and the community, police recruitment and training should be enhanced to represent communities being policed. This could be achieved by hiring more police officers that belong to a minority or marginalized group and engaging officers in cultural diversity and inclusion training.
In addition, we believe that community resources (delivered through non-profits and charities) are equally crucial to the health and wellness of a community. Organizations like Umoja advocate for marginalized peoples, create understanding between communities, provide education, strive to reduce poverty, address trauma and mental illness, address unemployment, and work to mitigate situations that should not be a policing issue.
Umoja represents the people who have been called stateless, refugee, immigrant, alien, newcomer, and more. It is not what they are called, it is what they have lived through and yet still holding onto their dreams and aspirations. Some people chose Canada, arriving full of dreams to the paradise they were told they would find. Others were sent to Canada as a result of the conflict in their home land. Once in Canada, and introduced to the Canadian way of life, they can regain hope for their future. Umoja stands with these people and aids them through their journey, one that could take years and could transcend generations.
There is much left to do until we achieve full equality, respect, and support for all. We would like to thank our funders, and partners, who have and continue to support our organization. It is because of their support that we are able to make lasting impacts on our community. However, more can be done. We call on the support of all levels of government; Federal, Provincial and Municipal, along with private corporations and individuals to invest, engage and work more closely with the charities and non-profit organizations serving marginalized communities and minority groups. Addressing the important issues of systemic racism, can help create a more vibrant, empowered, equitable, sustainable city, province and country.
Since March and the closure of in person programs, our Umoja Connects initiative has been taking place. Umoja staff members have been providing essential resources, packages, grocery support and outreach services to families with children 12 years and under. A special thanks to Vancouver Foundation, we are incredibly thankful for the financial support – this amazing initiative wouldn’t have been possible without their contribution! Ultimately, Umoja has continued focusing on intentionally staying connected and ensuring families are well taken care of during these difficult times.
On July 8th, 2020, the Umoja staff did a prize drive by to the happy winners of our Umoja Connects Family Fun Night contest. We received over 200 photo entries of families enjoying the activities from our Umoja Connects resource packages. Thank you to everyone who submitted their photos!
To be frequently updated about the work of Umoja, you can follow our Facebook (facebook.com/umojaoperation) and Instagram (instagram.com/umojaoperation).