Member Spotlights

Supporting our Community’s Newcomers

By Rachael Rode, Communications Specialist


Donat Mpunga, Program Manager

The Grande Prairie Centre for Newcomers is located on the fifth floor of the Nordic Court building in downtown Grande Prairie. It’s non-profit organization whose primary goal is to assist newcomers to settle in Grande Prairie and surrounding areas and access the resources they need, explained Donat Mpunga, the Centre’s Program Manager.

New immigrants to Grande Prairie come from all over the world. The Centre also assists second migrants who come from other Canadian provinces who may be looking for employment opportunities or joining spouses in Grande Prairie.

“When newcomers [arrive] here, most of them don’t know anybody,” Mpunga said. “We help them connect to people and community resources.” The Centre provides free assistance to immigrants in areas such as information and orientation, referrals, and supportive counseling. They work with their partners to help newcomers find employment, housing, school for themselves and children, English language instruction, and more. The Centre has also created a job board with open job postings for newcomers who visit them on-site.

“Mostly we see people come in because they need to find a job, but there is much more to do,” Mpunga stated. The Centre for Newcomers also supports immigrants in other aspects of their life in the new community. From ESL to health care, obtaining a driver’s license, further into grocery shopping and local entertainment, the needs of newcomers are extensively varied, and the Centre is prepared to respond to any request. “We do a thorough need assessment to see what their current needs are,” Mpunga explained. “If they need medical attention, we will see which doctor is taking patients. If they don’t know how to get their auto or home owner’s insurance, we help them find insurance companies. We connect them to community members. We also offer interpretation and translation services,” Mpunga said in summary.

The Centre will even connect families with support and counselling if needed. It’s all to help newcomers go through what Mpunga aptly called a “transformation”. The end goal is to help newcomers establish themselves and become self-sufficient so that they have the resources needed to become a contributing member of their new community.

“You don’t learn a new language or adapt to a new culture in one week,” Mpunga said with a smile. The Centre hopes that newcomers get on their feet quickly, but are more than willing to provide continued assistance if a client requires extended support.

The Centre for Newcomers also has a preventative mindset. “We need to see newcomers not when they have problems, but when they [first arrive], so they can be educated on how to avoid mistakes,” Mpunga explained. The Centre wants to prepare clients to make informed decisions and learn how to deal with potential problems before they occur. No matter what way the Centre is assisting newcomers, their efforts are definitely appreciated. “Every service we provide has an impact on somebody’s life,” stated Mpunga.

In the coming days, the Centre is looking at setting up the Settlement Support in School program. Already, the proposal has received positive feedback from school officials. This program would connect teachers, students, and parents with each other by allowing the Centre for Newcomers to go on-campus and meet immigrant children.

As the Centre for Newcomers is a non-profit organization, they do have limited resources. “Volunteers can help bridge the gap,” Mpunga stated. People who give their time to the Centre pave the way for the services the Centre provides to help newcomers settle in their new communities. Mpunga explained that volunteers can help with any activity as long as they have the necessary skills. Opportunities include reception, event planning, and client services such as gathering information, touring Grande Prairie with newcomers, conducting home visits and filling out the copious amount of paperwork that comes with immigration. Whether you love to meet new people and form relationships, or work behind the scenes, there’s an opportunity for you.

“Come to the centre and fill out the application,” Mpunga invites those who are interested in volunteering. “We need volunteers. The more we have, the better.” Grande Prairie is known for being a transient community, but the dedication of agencies such as the Centre for Newcomers encourages immigrants to stay where they have support. Eventually, newcomers become fully functional and integrated community members who give more than they receive. By supporting the Centre’s efforts, you support the community of Grande Prairie at large: visit the Centre on the fifth floor of the Nordic Court building to get involved.







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