Pembina Valley – Regional Connections Executive Director Commends Staff for Adaptability During Pandemic
June 25, 2020
Like many organizations this year, Regional Connections has had to alter the way they do things because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I commend our staff for their professional response and their adaptability while we were continually reassessing and adapting to find ways to meet client needs while complying with provincial health regulations,” says Executive Director Steve Reynolds. “Language classes and group programming moved immediately online, and we did our best to become webinar experts overnight.”
It was a great year for Regional Connections, says Reynolds, through all their locations, with around 4,000 unique clients using their various programs. He adds they continue to provide these modified services to adjust to health recommendations, with many staff working from home, while also being attentive to clients who have language, digital, or economic barriers that prevent them from accessing online services.
The language barrier is a challenge to successful settlement for many newcomers,” says Olesja Kraft, Settlement and Employment Coordinator. “With the help of our staff and volunteers, including certified Community Interpreters, our translation and interpretation team provides crucial assistance to bridge the language gap, not only to clients in all units of the organization but also to our community partners.”
In her report, Kraft said they served over we served over 3,500 Settlement clients, and 2,276 received a Settlement needs assessment. The top 10 countries of origin included the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, India, Mexico, Paraguay, Syria, and Brazil.
Other highlights of the year include:
699 Unique clients attended language classes at Regional Connections.
98 children were registered in child care and the newly renovated childcare space in Winkler.
Steady growth in the Volunteer Program, with over 300 volunteers providing over 6,000 hours of service.
Although the Winkler and District Chamber of Commerce gala was cancelled from COVID-19 restrictions, Regional Connections was recognized as Non-Profit of the Year.
Discussion on what immigration will look like as the country begins to open more is currently taking place. Reynolds says there is a backlog of people who were approved but couldn’t immigrate to Canada due to travel restrictions and will be waiting to see what happens for new immigration.
“The Federal Government has annual immigration targets. Whether those targets will be met, but just in a smaller number of months, either a backlog coming through or those targets will be adjusted downward a bit.”
With the plan for Phase-three of Manitoba’s reopening under the COVID-19 pandemic on the horizon, Reynolds says it’s an exciting step in seeing things open up again. Reynolds says they typically pick up their English class a week or two after the start of the public school year.
“With the room sizes we have, it might be at half capacity in-person or some classes that are partially in-person and online. We’ve planned out a couple of different options. We’ll see what the guidelines are and respond accordingly. At present, we continue to provide these modified services, with many staff working from home, while also being attentive to clients who have language, digital, or economic barriers that prevent them from accessing online services.”
As reopenings continue, Regional Connections looks ahead with plans to expand services to Dauphin and work with internationally educated professionals.