Ensuring successful settlement of refugee women & children

PIRS > Ensuring successful settlement of refugee women & children

How PIRS can make a difference
The Lower Mainland’s settlement infrastructure is stretched to capacity. With larger families and almost 50% with children under the age of 12, the current classroom-based LINC model is not adequate. Long waitlists for LINC classes, and few childcare spaces, are compounding the problem. LINC classes also have requirements that are barriers for newly arrived refugees.

PIRS wants to ensure that refugee women and children feel a sense of belonging through:

  • A strong network of support
  • Opportunities to engage with and become productive members of the broader Canadian society
  • Access to responsive community English language learning opportunities


For more than 40 years, PIRS has empowered immigrant and refugee women and children to fully participate in Canadian life through neighbourhood-based English language learning programs. PIRS is the only settlement organization focused on the needs of immigrant and refugee women and their children in the Lower Mainland. PIRS offers language learning solutions that help alleviate the difficulties that refugees experience. Our trauma informed community-based programs address the unique learning challenges of refugee women and children.

PIRS is committed to collaborate with our government to ensure the success of Canada’s current Syrian immigration programs. PIRS needs support from IRCC to help the current wave of newcomers improve their lives and achieve the promise that Canada offers. With additional IRCC funding PIRS can increase program access and reduce wait times for refugee women with young children, hasten productivity and ensure successful integration into Canadian life.


  • How long has PIRS been around?

PIRS was started in 1975 with one group of Chinese-speaking women and children at Strathcona Community Centre.

  • What does PIRS do?

PIRS programs enrich the lives of immigrant and refugee women with young children, fostering involvement and a sense of belonging that break the patterns of social isolation and poverty. With 40 years’ experience in the field of English language instruction, immigrant women’s leadership development and early childhood development, PIRS has served thousands of women, and our alumni and former volunteers can be found throughout the social service sector in the Lower Mainland as well as in businesses and government.

  • Who does PIRS serve?

About 560 women and 250 children participate in PIRS programs every year.

Participants come from more than 50 countries and speak more than 40 different languages. The main languages include Mandarin, Punjabi, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Farsi, Tagalog, Arabic and Korean.

  • How is PIRS different from other organizations that work with refugees?

PIRS is the only settlement organization focused on the needs of immigrant and refugee women and their children in the Lower Mainland.

  • PIRS programs are different because:
    • Our programs are more flexible, responsive and open. Our classes aim to create a sense of safety, develop connections and build hope.
    • Our program staff have a broader understanding of trauma and recognize that trauma affects learning in a multitude of ways (including student’s behaviour and emotions).
    • Our  infrastructure is our partnerships and we deliver programs when and where they are needed close to where immigrant & refugee women live.
  • What is PIRS’ budget?

PIRS’ average budget is approximately $600,000. PIRS has 25 part-time paid staff and relies on hundreds of hours volunteer time. PIRS receives funding from the provincial government, the City of Vancouver, the United Way, fees and from individual donations

  • Where does PIRS work?

PIRS is located in Vancouver and delivers program across Lower Mainland communities.

  • What do people have to say about PIRS?

As a PIRS teacher, I have seen first hand the impact our programs have had bringing women and families together, from isolation to integration. We work to help immigrants improve their language skills, job skills and cultural awareness — with this they gain confidence, contacts and friendships that lead them to being contributors and strong women in our neighbourhoods. Women from our programs find themselves volunteering, becoming group leaders, maintaining meaningful work, and becoming more involved in their children’s schools and community programs. PIRS gives these brave and capable women a way to be involved in the communities we all share.

— Kimberly Currie

It was great to see our new participants forming friendships for themselves and their children in their own neighbourhoods, while improving their English. This ease of access to the EAL program at Trudeau Elementary was especially important to the older participants who walked to class.

— PIRS ESL teacher

FSGV is proud partner of PIRS. PIRS provides valuable, community-based, programming in response to the diverse and changing needs of immigrant and refugee  women and their children. Their work supports families to become healthy, happy and active members of Canadian society.

—  Kimberley Berger | Community Education & Development Coordinator

One and a half years ago, we set up the preschool space at the Muslim Association of Canada, we did not know what or how we would use it as a preschool space, but we are so glad PIRS was able to jump in and set up a program for the refugee children. We are honoured to give this space to all Muslim refugee children – this is your place, please be welcome here!

— Muslim Association of Canada

Early this year, over 200 Government-Assisted Refugees making up 46 families from Syria, Sudan and China who were staying temporarily at the Kingsway Motel, were supported by PIRS staff in attending family and parenting sessions. We appreciate the valuable role that PIRS played in preparing these families to meet the challenges of raising their children in a new environment.