In more than fifteen years of service abroad as a psychotherapist, trainer and supervisor, Adrienne Carter witnessed the devastating effects of displacement and trauma on the human spirit. Upon return to her Victoria home, Carter was determined to create a safe haven for those immigrants and refugees on Vancouver Island who had lived similar experiences in their countries of origin and were suffering the impact of trauma. To that end, and in the Spring 2015, she and colleague Linda McLagan found support to shape a modest program of counselling to immigrants and refugees, a program to be operated under the umbrella of a settlement agency.
Carter and McLagan’s plans were altered by the Fall 2015 announcement of the arrival of a wave of Syrian refugees to communities in Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula and north to Nanaimo. There was little doubt that the modest program lacked capacity to provide adequate services to an increased population of children, women and men devastated by unimaginable horrors, including torture.
This was the genesis of VICCIR, and the reason why counselling services are central to our activities. Over the course of our short history, the influence of the world’s refugee crisis and increased anti-immigrant sentiment has underscored our longer-term vision. It is for all citizens to contribute to communities that thrive on diversity of origin, culture, religion and interests, and are strengthened by shared common values.
In the Fall 2015 and with surprisingly little recruitment, counsellors and translators came forward to offer their services pro bono to the immigrant/refugee population. Each counsellor has a graduate degree in psychology, social work, counselling, adult education, or child studies; most have specialized training in a model or technique of psychotherapy and are registered with professional bodies, and all received training in trauma counselling. The translators received training as well in the art of working with counsellors. VICCIR has access to a physician and a psychiatrist as well. Until funding is assured and robust, all are working pro bono.
Our counselling services are grounded on the recognition that each individual IS unique, and we tailor treatment plans accordingly. We respect cultural norms and the value of expressing oneself in one’s own language. If a counsellor doesn’t speak our client’s language, one of our translators serves as a bridge between the individual and their counsellor. Our objectives for all clients we serve:
- reduce the debilitating symptoms of trauma,
- increase personal resiliency and self-mastery required to improve quality of life, and
- find within themselves an eagerness to participate in the communities that welcome each of them.
Concomitantly, our work in the community is focused on how to welcome “the other”, to discover values that we share and to struggle with how we manage our differences. Our work in the community stretches from a telephone conversation with a frustrated teacher about a new student who is exhibiting aggressive behaviour, presenting a regional daylong workshop to mental health and public health workers about trauma, providing consultation to a settlement agency, collaborating with police and community services concerned with domestic violence, meeting with academics to share our interests in participating in research projects. We imagine these pursuits and others will evolve with time, as long as they move us closer to our vision.
VICCIR’s capacity has grown immeasurably since our founding in the Spring of 2015. Over 40 professional counsellors and skilled translators have answered the humanitarian call of those fortunate enough to have found shelter here on Vancouver Island from some of the world’s current disasters. We have found two physical sites to call home, and established a presence and identity in our region.
As yet, we continue to work with a startup mentality and philosophy; we work doggedly long hours without remuneration, driven by a commitment to making a positive difference for the people we serve directly and the communities that are our home. As yet, all revenue, received from speaking and consulting engagements, pays for our office space and other essentials. That, we trust, will shift in time as we prove our value and earn the right to donor support and charitable funding.
As far as we know, we are the sole service provider on the Island for immigrants and refugees who seek help for relief from the symptoms of trauma, the only Centre that trains translators to work with informed counsellors. We are ambitious, believing we have a contribution to make to our local communities, and perhaps beyond.
Please feel free to contact us, we are here to help. We maintain offices in Victoria and in Duncan.
Join Our Team
We welcome your contribution to our family of volunteers, and to our team of counsellors and translators.
Your contribution will help us enrich Vancouver Island’s integrated communities and strengthen those who live in them.