On June 28th, 2022, Primacorp Ventures donated $60,000 to the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CSIS) mental health program for refugees.
CCIS is a non-profit organization that provides comprehensive services to refugees in Canada. The organization’s mental health program began in 1987 and has been running for almost 35 years, resulting in the robust Centre for Refugee Resilience. With the scarcity of mental health resources for refugees, it is a vital and unique program that serves entire families from infancy to old age.
“Support from the CCIS changed my life. It is why I am standing here today,” said Modeste Nzenga, a refugee and survivor of torture in East Africa. Like most refugees, Modeste had no control over where he would end up and arrived knowing very little of the language and culture of his new home. As he describes his experience of settling in, recovering, healing and eventually thriving, it becomes clear that refugees who come to Canada are not out of the woods by the time they land - in fact their journey is just beginning.
Primacorp Ventures has a strong relationship with CCIS, having supported refugees in the past by offering temporary housing to over 1,500 refugees at Amenida, Primacorp Ventures’ senior living community. This latest donation will allow CCIS to employ a full-time therapist for the refugee mental health program, shorten their long waitlist, and provide early intervention programs to newcomers.
“Mental health is an important and often overlooked piece of the puzzle when it comes to resettlement for refugees,” said Najib Raie, AVP of Business and Strategy at Primacorp Ventures. Raie, who pioneered and led this partnership, is a former refugee himself. Raie empathizes with the hardships involved in making a new life for oneself outside of their home country, such as having to get requalified and relearning everything from culture to language.
Primacorp Ventures recently launched a special refugee bursary program that enables refugees to obtain vocational training, enter the Canadian workforce, and become financially independent. “Supporting refugees and immigrants in Canada is a cause close to our hearts,” Raie added.
Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of CCIS, who was likewise a refugee himself, said, “This is the magic of Canada; that people can come here and fit right in and feel at home.” However, he explains that the events that force people to seek refuge can also cause them to suffer trauma. “Trauma left untreated is what leads to mental health issues,” explains Birjandian, noting that this is what drives the CCIS’s focus on mental health, counselling, and support.
Birjandian thanked Primacorp Ventures, saying, “This is a unique project in Canada that we have been very lucky to receive support for from the government and donors such as Primacorp. It has been an amazing experience working with a company where leadership genuinely cares about humanity - the kind of corporation that cares about addressing community needs and wants to be a part of the impact that we are having through our work.”