This year Pictou County is taking a big step toward establishing long-term services for its newcomer demographic.
Kailee Brennan is the county’s new resettlement coordinator. The position entails streamlining the services offered to those newcomers who have only just arrived and coordinating volunteer efforts to ensure that Canada’s newest citizens are able to navigate through their new home.
Brennan was still getting settled-into her new office at the Trinity United Church in New Glasgow when she spoke to The News.
“I think my friends thought I was a little crazy,” said Brennan who first arrived in New Glasgow from Ottawa in December.
“I love New Glasgow so far. There’s no traffic, there’s everything you need and people are really friendly.”
Now that she’s here, the work has started.
“The number one goal is to work with the families that are here,” said Brennan. “Making sure that their transition is as smooth as it can be. As the year goes on they’ll need less and less help and then that will maybe free us up to think about what else SAFE Harbour could be going in the community.”
“There’s a lot of the right ingredients here to do something bigger picture in a smaller area.”
The first ingredient has certainly been the community’s openness and welcoming attitude towards those individuals and families who have most recently arrived as refugees from Syria.
“Being a newcomer in Canada is really hard. You’ll face racism, and you’ll face communities not being welcoming to you, and you might really struggle with the language barriers. But I think when you find people like the people of Safe Harbour who are willing to say, ‘we’re willing to come alongside you and help you understand how life in our community works’, then that’s the very best of resettlement.”
Brennan was first put in touch with SAFE Harbour through her work with the University of Ottawa where she worked at the university’s refugee hub, an organization which specializes in research, programming and partnerships on refugee issues.
It’s a field that has been close to Brennan's heart since her years in High School when she ran summer camps in her hometown of Moosejaw Sask. for immigrant children.
“I did that from about the age 16 until I was 24,” said Brennan. “It was my baby, I really loved working with those families.”
From there, Brennan earned a degree in education from the University of Regina and wound up teaching English and history in high school before realligning her career toward working with newcomers.
She spent eight months at the University of Ottawa taking courses in teaching English as a second language. At the same time Brennan volunteered at a refugee shelter where she eventually became program manager. She spent three years in that position while also earning a Master’s degree in refugee protection online at the University of London. She’d been with the University of Ottawa’s refugee hub for only a short while before she become connected with Pictou County Safe Harbour.
“There was funding available for continued sponsorships which allowed SAFE to welcome seven new families,” said Brennan referring to the seven families which had arrived in the Fall of 2018. “And because of some private funding they were able to create this position.”
At the time Brennan says she was looking for a change, and had a few options in front of her back in the capital, but the idea of coming to the East Coast won out in the end.
“I thought it was really neat what Pictou County was doing. There’s a real appetite here to expand and do more in terms of refugee resettlement, but also with immigration,” said Brennan. “There’s also the broader picture of what can Pictou do, and how can we use immigration and resettlement as a means to meet many different needs.”