A small, dedicated group ran our very first programs out of the Knox Fellowship House on 24th Street, primarily for Vietnamese refugees. We offered part-time ESL classes at the Cosmo Civic Centre, ESL tutoring, translation, legal awareness sessions, pre-natal classes, and support for ethno-cultural groups, mainly the Lao Association of Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Vietnamese Association. The Regency Building on 25th Street and 4th Avenue North briefly became our new home before we moved again, into a space contributed by Mark's Gallery on Avenue C.
The Saskatoon Open Door Society was officially incorporated on February 5, 1981. Our birthday on paper!
We held our first Annual General Meeting on May 11, 1981.
We received a Canadian Community Development Grant and hired two new Outreach Workers for a one-year term. The staff included workers fluent in Chinese, Polish and Vietnamese.
We piloted four part-time ESL classes involving 40 immigrant women. Childcare was provided and, for the first time, early childhood educators were paid. This program was housed in an office on 23rd Street; employment programs were run out of an office on 4th Avenue.
We used a computer for the first time, to produce a report for our Immigrant Settlement and Adaptation Program.
We started our new Host Program, now Community Connections.
For the first time, SODS welcomed refugees from Chad, Syria and Uganda. We introduced the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, part of the new federal immigrant integration strategy.
We moved again, this time to 311 4th Avenue North.
We opened our Multicultural Child Care Centre on 4th Avenue. The Immigrant Parents’ Association was formed.
Of the 31 families we welcomed to Saskatoon, 21 were from Bosnia.
Our Youth Bridging programs began to expand with assistance from the Muttart Foundation.
One-on-one employment counselling was introduced by our Employment Development Unit. Employment services were established as a core function.
The federal government admitted 5,000 Kosovar refugees to Canada; 179 were sent to Saskatoon and all arrived by the end of July. SODS was one of several organizations that collaborated to ease their transition to Canadian society. We worked with the Saskatoon Refugee Coalition, school boards, United Way and the Muttart Foundation.
We welcomed 36 refugees from Sudan. Those numbers continued to increase over the next few years, despite a decrease in federal funding.
Refugees began to arrive from Afghanistan.
September 21 was designated Open Door Day by the City of Saskatoon in honour of our 20th anniversary.
We welcomed many refugees, mostly from Sudan and Afghanistan.
We moved to 247 1st Avenue North.
Karen refugees began to arrive in Saskatoon in large numbers.
The Saskatchewan Newcomers Assistance Program (SNAP) was piloted. We began working with the Saskatoon Police Service, and their first scholarships were presented to newcomer youth. Settlement Support Workers in Schools (SSWIS) was established. We now had 70 employees!
The Settlement, Employment and Administration units moved to a new location at 100-129 3rd Avenue North. Language Services remained at 1st Avenue and two off-site classes were offered out of Queen Elizabeth School. The Newcomers Information Centre was established.
We developed a cross-cultural bridging program to assist schools and other organizations, including government agencies, with training and assistance on how to reach people across a cultural divide and especially how to benefit from greater social diversity.
We opened a new daycare at Queen Elizabeth School to support ESL learners in our language training classes, with spaces for 40 children. Non-newcomers also expressed an interest in having their toddlers attend one of our two daycares, so that their children could benefit from the multicultural experience they offer.
A new Human Resources management position was created; staff totalled 150. Most government-assisted refugees were coming from Iraq, Bhutan and Ethiopia.
Government-assisted refugees from Ethiopia, Bhutan and Congo made their way to Saskatoon.
The first WEconnect Job Fair was held at the Hilton Garden Inn on January 10, 2013. The majority of newcomers arriving in Saskatoon were from the Congo, Somalia and Bhutan.
Eritreans, Somalians and Iraqis were among the different communities making Saskatoon their new home.
On December 19, 2015, SODS welcomed a group of 14 Syrian refugees to Saskatoon. They were the first to arrive in Saskatchewan, as part of a federal plan to resettle 25,000 refugees in Canada. Half of the 14 were government-sponsored; the rest were privately sponsored.
Early in the year, another 383 Syrian government-assisted refugees arrived in Saskatoon in answer to the federal government’s commitment. The community’s response was overwhelming, with more than 400 people stepping forward to volunteer and many more donating clothing, household goods and financial assistance.
We focused on building bridges between newcomers and Indigenous communities in Saskatoon and the area. Throughout the year we held numerous events, many in collaboration with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.
More than 200 employees now provide services to newcomers from over 170 countries in the areas of Settlement and Family Support, Settlement and Community Connections, Language Training, Childcare and Employment.