Syrian and Congolese families joined a celebration at CHEO – OCTC today to officially launch SimplifyingTheJourney.ca — an online toolkit funded by the Government of Canada for use by organizations to determine how they can best help newcomers to Canada navigate the complex array of services they encounter.
SimplifyingTheJourney.ca was born out of the response by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO – OCTC) to the arrival of 2,000 Syrian refugees in Ottawa (most of them children) that started in December 2015. While CHEO – OCTC was involved in a broad community effort to coordinate across organizations, the hospital also responded within its walls by creating a Newcomer Navigator position.
CHEO – OCTC’s Newcomer Navigator helped guide these families — with no knowledge of the language or North American cultural norms — through the complexities of the pediatric health-care system and connect them with other services in the community. This included translation, ensuring comprehension of treatment plans, developing clinical information resources in Arabic, and educating staff about Syrian culture and the refugee experience.
“I want to say thank you to every Canadian for welcoming us and helping us start a new life,” said Bousy Al Ibrahim, a mother of six whose husband died before she fled Syria for Lebanon. “And I want to thank CHEO – OCTC for all the support and care I got for my daughter Rahma. I was very happy to give back to the hospital by being part of this project.”
Al Ibrahim’s journey is one of the featured video stories on the website to highlight the hardships refugee families endure fleeing their homelands. The new website also shares the CHEO – OCTC experience, including the gaps and barriers that were encountered, and the solutions put in place to provide welcoming, high-quality care to Syrian refugee families and, more broadly, all newcomer families.
At its core, SimplifyingTheJourney.ca is a Newcomer Navigator Toolkit developed to help organizations design and implement their own navigator programs.
“I am proud of the work done by the staff, physicians and volunteers here at CHEO – OCTC when Canada opened its doors, and its heart, to tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. In Ottawa, most were children and we needed be ready to provide them excellent care,” said Alex Munter, President and CEO of CHEO – OCTC. “We learned a lot as we came to know this community of newcomers and I am equally proud that we are now able share what we learned with other organizations.”
Navigator programs have had some very positive results in health care. The hope for the online toolkit is that non-health-care agencies will see similar opportunities and results.
“Resettling 2,000 newcomers requires a lot of collaboration, transparency and patience from all sectors including settlement agencies, health-care organizations and community partners. Many families arriving in Ottawa had children who suffered from chronic illnesses, developmental disorders and post-traumatic stress. CHEO – OCTC’s Newcomer Navigator helped create bridges to the Catholic Centre for Immigrants and all of our keen partners in the community,” said Carl Nicholson, Executive Director of Ottawa’s Catholic Centre for Immigrants. “We hope other organizations can use this toolkit and learn from CHEO – OCTC’s leadership.”
The SimplifyingTheJourney.ca project was funded by the Government of Canada.
“The Government of Canada is proud to support the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario through the Social Development Partnerships Program,” said MP for Ottawa South, David McGuinty on behalf of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. “CHEO is to be commended for its pioneering, innovative and inspiring Navigator Program that that will help parents more readily access the health-care services their children.”