More than 400,000 immigrants live in Calgary. Each newcomer plays a role in making our community a happier, safer, and more prosperous place. They are trained healthcare workers, transit drivers, teachers, engineers, and artists who moved to Canada in search of a better life—at one point, they needed support to build thriving lives.
Our Impact. Our Community.
Immigrant Services Calgary supports newcomers in their immigration journey, helping them access vital programs and services to realize their Canadian dream. Our impact*:
newcomers helped to build thriving lives in Calgary
language tests executed to help newcomers access English language classes, schooling, and certifications
assessments completed to ensure newcomers are connected to the best programs and services to meet their needs
*Cumulative data from 2016-2021
Meet the people we've helped:
My Gateway Planner was the first person I spoke to in Calgary to get information about the services available, especially for people with disabilities,” says Dima. “She made things easy for me by informing me about resources I could benefit from.”
When she was only three years old, Dima had an accident that left her permanently disabled. Growing up in a small Syrian town, she didn’t receive a lot of support, with many viewing a life of disability as one not worth living.
After graduating from high school, she moved, found a job in Damascus, and began frequenting a gym for athletes with disabilities. Ten years later, she was an international table tennis gold medalist, met her husband, Osama, and they soon welcomed two boys into their family.
When war broke out in Syria, Dima’s family fled to Turkey. In 2017, they relocated to Ontario before moving to Calgary in 2021—where Dima contacted Immigrant Services Calgary for support.
Working with her Gateway Planner, Dima shared goals for her future and was referred to programs that could help her and her family—and applied for Canadian citizenship.
Dima and her family are now building the lives they envisioned for themselves, thanks to the support from Immigrant Services Calgary.
“Moving from one province to another was difficult for me, especially because of the language barrier,” says Dima. “My Gateway Planner made things easy. The services Immigrant Services Calgary provides are excellent and make it easier for newcomers to adjust to their new life.”
to support newcomers like Dima.
My Gateway Planner helped me 100%,” says Mohamed. “She opened my eyes to the resources available to me. The service was great!”
Mohamed is a newcomer from Somalia with a physical disability that makes it harder to get around Calgary. New to the city and lacking a support network, he was struggling with food security. He reached out to Immigrant Services Calgary and was immediately referred to a culturally sensitive food bank, which provided him with a food hamper the same day.
Once Mohamed had food support, Immigrant Services Calgary booked his appointment with a Gateway Planner who speaks his native language. They worked together to build a plan for his future based on his needs, priorities, skills, and goals.
Mohamed was referred to several programs to receive needed support with his daily living, connecting him to affordable housing, benefits for people with disabilities, low-income transit passes, and free English language classes. As his Gateway Planner got to know him, she discovered Mohamed did not have many essential furniture items—so she connected him with a centre that provided a mattress, microwave, and other items for his home.
After ensuring Mohamed’s needs were met, the Gateway Planner connected him to an art program—his passion. He was provided with art supplies and now enjoys regularly attending the classes, creating beautiful pieces, and building new friendships with other students. Mohamad is happy with his new life in Canada, and is deeply grateful for all the support available to newcomers in Calgary.
to support newcomers like Mohamed.
Canada seemed like the perfect option from what we researched,” says Yumna. “We read that the people were nice and welcoming, and it was actually the truth when we came here and experienced that. In Canada, you find opportunities and you can actually settle for the long term.”
Originally from Pakistan, Yumna landed in Canada in March 2020—only three days before Canadian borders closed due to the pandemic.
Both her and her husband were working in the Middle East, and while they held lucrative jobs, they weren’t able to settle there permanently. They wanted to move somewhere they could call home.
When she arrived, she was eager to apply for jobs and network, but it was a challenge with pandemic lockdowns. A friend recommended Immigrant Services Calgary to help her succeed faster.
Yumna connected with an Immigrant Services Calgary employment counselor and received guidance on her resume and job search. She attended virtual networking events and other free workshops that helped her understand the Canadian culture, employment, banking, and healthcare systems. With the support of her employment counselor, she landed a job in her area of expertise, and is now building the career of her dreams.
“The support and the encouragement we received from people who were strangers to us was phenomenal and unexpected,” she says. “We didn't know a lot of people in Calgary, so with that much support from people who you don't know, it's just something else.”
Yumna is a strong believer in paying it forward. She hopes every newcomer gets the support they need to adapt to their new home, thrive, and unleash their full potential.
to support newcomers like Yumna.
Partnering for Change
At Immigrant Services Calgary, we believe in the famous saying “two heads are better than one.” Combining the strengths and expertise of diverse organizations allows us to solve issues impacting our community through innovation and strategic problem solving. Only 4 in 10 newcomers to Canada are accessing support services. Together with our partners, we want to grow that number to 8.
The following are a few examples of our transformational partnerships.
60% of newcomers to Canada are not accessing the services they need because the current support system is complex and challenging to navigate.
In a Calgary survey of those not accessing services, 80% were unaware or confused about the services available to them.
Traditionally, the settlement sector in Calgary was siloed, with each organization functioning individually, rather than in coordination with one another. For newcomers entering the city, this meant there was no clear path showing which services to access and when. Despite their desire to succeed in their new home, many newcomers fell through the cracks and were unable to build thriving lives.
In 2021, Immigrant Services Calgary and its community partners launched Gateway: a collaboration among organizations to better serve and support newcomers who choose to make Alberta home. Born out of the desire to improve the lives of newcomers in Calgary, Gateway ensures immigrants and refugees are connected to the best-fit programs and services that enable them to thrive in their new home.
programs and services available to help newcomers succeed
languages spoken by support staff to eliminate language barriers
partners working together to ensure newcomers are connected to the best-fit services in the community
Each newcomer story is different, which is why each Gateway client receives a unique plan based on their dreams, goals, skills, and priorities. The plan refers newcomers to the programs and services that best meet their needs. The Gateway team follows up with the client on a regular basis to ensure the client is reaching their goals.
Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative (CENC)
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigrant Services Calgary joined forces with 16 community-serving agencies to form the CENC. This collaborative works to address the needs of newcomers in northeast Calgary by connecting them to culturally appropriate supports.
Throughout the pandemic, many households were significantly impacted. Northeast Calgary is a working-class region, with large populations of visible minorities and newcomers, many living in multi-generational homes. The region is also home to large numbers of essential and front-line workers who are unable to work from home or take time off for illness or to attend appointments.
CENC created rapid response programs to ensure newcomers and ethnocultural communities had support to address their unique needs in their first language–and with sensitivity to their cultural background. This offered residents a free call line, food hampers, COVID-19 information, and mental health and employment support.
Northeast Calgary had the highest active COVID-19 case rate per person in the city and the third highest of any region in Alberta
Northeast Calgary ranks number-one in first-dose vaccine coverage in Alberta, with almost 99% of eligible residents having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
As vaccines became available, accessibility, language barriers, and low digital literacy prevented people in the region from being able to book their COVID-19 vaccine online. So the CENC partnered with local organizations to ensure residents could access accurate information and support. Drive-thru vaccine clinics, faith-informed appointments, and pop-up clinics were coordinated through Gateway–helping to dramatically increase vaccination rates for northeast Calgary residents.
Learn more about this incredible collaboration in the video below.
United Voices is an annual summit that aims to normalize conversation around mental health for newcomer youth, many of whom come from backgrounds where the topic is often stigmatized. Hosted by Immigrant Services Calgary, the summit is a direct response to the tragic passing of a 9-year-old newcomer in Calgary who died by suicide in 2019 after being bullied at school.
Supported by 25 mental health, youth, and newcomer-serving agencies, United Voices raises awareness about mental health and empowers youth with the appropriate resources to keep them resilient in the face of challenges.
The following organizations are partners in United Voices:
I came to meet you with a bunch of problems, questions and I was clueless and not able to express my pain and cried a lot in front of you …You show me a path how to handle the situation where I have to go and whom I have to meet …