Helping hands celebrate World Refugee Day

First marked in 2001, World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20.

On this day, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) states, “tens of thousands of people around the world take time to recognize and applaud the contribution of forcibly displaced people throughout the world. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.”

The goal of World Refugee Day is to raise awareness and vital funds to help relieve the suffering of the 60 million displaced people around the world, more than half of whom are children. For most, each day is a struggle with so many uncertainties.

Here at the Victoria Foundation we have been doing our part to help support refugees who have come to Victoria to rebuild their lives. Through the Community Foundations of Canada’s Welcome Fund, the Victoria Foundation was able to distribute $25,000 to the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA).

In addition to these funds, we have granted a further $79,500 to ICA and the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society (VIRCS) and others for refugee resettlement programs.

One such upcoming program will use sport as a way to help refugee newcomers adapt to their new home and feel a part of their new community.

The Canadian government has resettled over 25,000 Syrian refugees in 23 communities across Canada this year, many of whom are children and youth. Linking into community sport and accessing the resources available is often complex, yet sport can play a vital role in newcomers’ sense of belonging. As such, Sport for Life Society is working closely with community partners on a program that will help refugee children and youth get involved with existing sport/physical activity programs as soon as basic needs such as housing and health are addressed.

Through local settlement centres, refugee children and youth will be connected to a Sport for Life Champion and a Newcomer Mentor who will assist each child/youth in finding the right fit for sport, help with registration and equipment funding, and offer ongoing, culturally tailored support as the children/youth progress through their sports. The program is targeted to be delivered nationally, and is being piloted in Victoria through the generous support of the Victoria Foundation and KidSport Victoria. Sport for Life Society is working closely with community partners including the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria to implement this program over the upcoming months.

There are several refugee sport programs occurring across Canada and Sport for Life Society has been connecting with those programs to learn from their best practices, with the goal of eventually scaling the core elements and introducing programs to the other settlement communities across Canada. This is a very exciting and important opportunity as newcomers can bring a renewal and sense of vibrancy to sport and recreation organizations. It is also imperative for the sport system to be accessible to all, and this program will work to ensure that any barriers to participation are overcome through a team of support bridging those gaps.

If you would like more information or are interested in getting involved, please contact Emily Rand, Special Projects Manager, Sport for Life Society at

And for more information on World Refugee Day visit: