A promotional image for the new Arrival Advisor app, which aims to help immigrants and refugees as they settle in British Columbia. (Submitted photo)

Free app launches to help immigrants, refugees as they settle in B.C.

Mobile app Arrival Advisor was developed by Vancouver-based non-profit PeaceGeeks

A free app has just launched that aims to help immigrants and refugees access services as they settle in B.C.

It’s called Arrival Advisor and strives to assist newcomers as they “plan their settlement journey” and is “customized to fit their needs.”

The app is described as a “one-stop-shop” for immigrants and refugees in finding reliable information on a variety of topics, including employment, health care, banking, government programs, housing, education and more.

In 2018, there were more than 70,000 newcomers to this province.

READ MORE: B.C. government earmarks more cash to help new immigrants settle

“Studies have shown that one in three newcomers remain unaware of available resources, and seven municipal districts across the Lower Mainland have identified access to information as a top barrier for immigrant resettlement,” notes a release from PeaceGeeks, a Vancouver-based non-profit that created the app, which is available in both the Apple and Google Play stores.

PeaceGeek’s Patrick Estey said Arrival Advisor is based on a previous app the company had developed called Services Advisor, that was primarily based in Jordan and Turkey, to help refugees there access services.

Now, with the B.C.-based app, PeaceGeeks aims to “take the workload off of organizations and allow individuals arriving in Canada to have some independence,” said Estey.

He added that the ultimate goal is to “make it really easy for newcomers.”

“They’ve sometimes had a really challenging journey, sometimes they’re escaping really horrible conditions.”

The initial launch offers the app in English, Fresh and Arabic. Estey notes there are plans to also launch it in Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean, Punjabi and Tagalog in the near future.

READ ALSO: Federal officials dealing with backlog of refugee security screens

“We are really wanting every single individual that’s coming to British Columbia to be downloading the app,” said Estey. “We’re getting really good feedback in terms of settlement organizations and settlement workers that are going to recommend this app for individuals who are new to Canada.”

So far, Estey said reactions to the app have been “surprise, and kind of delight.”

“I think it’s something the sector has needed for a while,” he noted. “We do find that a lot of immigrants or refugees do have access to a smartphone and it kind of becomes their survival guide so to speak, so to be able to offer this all in one place is really exciting.”

Estey said the team is wanting more feedback, to help make improvements to the app.

“This is version 1.0,” he explained, “but we want feedback in how we can improve.”

Estey said the app was made possible via promotional and financial support from the provincial government, as well as a $750,000 grant secured through placing in the top five in the Google.org Impact Challenge in 2017.

There is hope to expand the app across Canada, noted Estey, but said step one is “ensure this app is working properly in B.C., and that it’s effective.”

According to the Surrey Local Immigrant Partnership (SLIP), 40.5 per cent of Surrey’s population are immigrants. And, SLIP reports that Surrey receives roughly 26 per cent of refugees in the province, the most of any B.C. municipality.

To learn more visit arrivaladvisor.ca.



amy.reid@surreynowleader.com

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