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The Interconnectedness Initiative: A collaborative initiative to support survivors of torture

We are delighted to share with you an inspiring initiative that has brought together eight mental health and settlement agencies in Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, all united by a common goal of supporting survivors of torture. This collaborative effort aims to enhance the collective support system for survivors, their families, and their communities, fostering a sense of harmony and empowerment.

The project, funded by the Victoria Foundation, has undertaken a comprehensive approach to address the needs of survivors of torture. Fourteen settlement and integration organizations in the Capital Regional District (CRD) and Metro Vancouver were invited to participate, with eight organizations responding enthusiastically. The participating agencies include notable organizations such as The Vancouver Association for Survivors of Torture (VAST), Vancouver Island Counseling Centre for Immigrants and Refugees (VICCIR), DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC), Inter-Cultural Association (ICA), Rainbow Refugee, Anglican Diocese, and Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre (VIRCS). 

The methodology of this project involved conducting comprehensive interviews with the participating agencies to establish a baseline assessment of their capacity to effectively support, refer, and empower survivors of torture. 

These interviews played a vital role in understanding the challenges faced by survivors, their families, and their communities upon their arrival in BC. 

Two virtual round-table discussions were also organized, with the assistance of Turning Point Resolutions consulting firm, to gather input from the participating agencies and identify key gaps and necessary actions. Through these discussions, several significant findings emerged, highlighting areas that require attention and improvement. 

The key focus areas include referral processes, training, case conferencing and community capacity building, research and advocacy, and overall advocacy efforts to amplify survivors’ voices and effect positive change. 

To address these findings, the VCST board of directors has outlined a series of actionable steps. 

Findings and next steps

The first step involves developing a comprehensive resource list of services for survivors of torture, enabling professionals to provide appropriate referrals and connections.

Additionally, program promotion will be prioritized to raise awareness and highlight programs provided by agencies that empower and assist survivors

Training is recognized as a crucial element, and the VCST will develop a curriculum that directly addresses the expressed needs of stakeholders, equipping agencies and the community with the necessary knowledge and skills to create a safe and nurturing environment for survivors. 

Case conferencing protocols will be established to enhance cooperation and collaboration among stakeholders, while engagement in research and advocacy will contribute to advancing support programs and expanding the understanding of torture’s hidden sequels. 

The VCST will also enhance its website to serve as an interactive and resourceful platform, providing valuable support and networking opportunities within the region. 

Ensuring long-term sustainability is a top priority, and the VCST will actively seek sustainable resources and funding solutions. 

Through the collective efforts of the VCST, stakeholders, supporters, and funders, these ten identified actions will be fulfilled to support survivors of torture, their families, and their communities. The journey continues, and we look forward to the positive impact this initiative will have in our region.

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