(This story is sponsored by PeaceGeeks.)
One of the most life-changing decisions a person will ever make is to leave their home and move to another country. In addition to the emotional challenges is a long task list: finding housing, a job, and health care—to name but a few. So having access to information about the settlement and community services available is crucial. Yet according to the Vancouver Immigrant Survey conducted in 2015, one in three newcomers remains unaware of such resources.
PeaceGeeks is a Vancouver-based nonprofit organization that builds digital tools to empower communities in the pursuit of peace. In 2017, it won the Google.org Impact Challenge Canada, placing in the top five of the 900 nonprofits that applied. With the $750,000 award and additional funding from the provincial government, PeaceGeeks set up its latest project—the free Arrival Advisor app. It seeks to bridge existing gaps in accessibility of information for successful newcomer settlement.
Arrival Advisor has now launched, allowing immigrants and refugees in B.C. to find reliable, up-to-date information and services to get started in their new community—from housing, to education, to banking, and more—all in one place.
“In our research we discovered that smartphones have really become a survival line for people,” says Patrick Estey, Fund Development Manager at PeaceGeeks. “Most newcomers arrive with this technology but there’s just so much information out there that it can be overwhelming.”
Arrival Advisor is free to download via Apple App and Google Play stores. Topics within the app can be accessed without a Wi-Fi connection, accommodating many newcomers who have phones but no data coverage. The app also connects to the phone’s Maps to help users navigate to service providers near them.
The first version of the app is available in English, French, and Arabic, and PeaceGeeks is working to introduce it in Korean, Tagalog, Punjabi, and Chinese (traditional and simplified) by summer 2019. Users do not need to create an account or disclose any personal information to use the app. By answering an optional and anonymous questionnaire about their circumstances, they receive tailored recommendations and step-by-step guidance on relevant topics.
The app is a community-driven project, developed in partnership with settlement organizations across Metro Vancouver, Local Immigration Partnerships, data service provider BC211, and an advisory group of immigrants and refugees to Canada.
“Our hope and goal is that we can expand it across Canada,” Estey says. “Right now we want to focus on ensuring that the app is working effectively, providing actionable and comprehensive information, and that it’s useful in B.C.”
For newcomers, the benefit of having easy access to useful information cannot be underestimated.
“There’s so much hate in the world,” Estey says. “When you look at what’s happening globally with newcomers and people being so resistant to immigrants and refugees, it’s nice to be a part of a project where we’re really helping to make their lives easier, instead of more difficult. Canada can be a leader.”
To learn more about PeaceGeeks’ Arrival Advisor app or to subscribe to project updates, visit the website at arrivaladvisor.ca. The app is available for download now in app stores and you can give your feedback by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.