Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services

Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services improves health outcomes for the most vulnerable immigrants, refugees, and their communities. We do this by facilitating access to services and addressing systemic inequities.

Our Impact Why We Exist

Our goal is for all people who face barriers to good health to have access to high quality primary health care within an integrated system of care. To achieve this we:

  • Have a solid and strong commitment to the determinants of health. We employ a broad range of strategies and provide services using an integrated and interdisciplinary approach, while remaining responsive to changing community needs;
  • Focus on the most disadvantaged immigrants and refugees. There are many needs and issues and we want to make sure we work with those communities that face the most severe barriers;
  • Are committed to evidence-based practice. We want to have a good solid basis for our priorities, be able to identify expected outcomes and evaluate them in such a way that it contributes to ongoing learning and improvement;
  • Acknowledge that strategic partnerships are critical for our success. We are collaborative and committed to building capacity, to putting our resources out in the community, and to having shared leadership in the sector on numerous issues.

Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

Since opening our doors in 1989, Access Alliance has been working to promote the health and well-being of immigrants and refugees in Toronto through a social determinants of health approach that addresses medical, social, economic and environmental issues. Originally focussed on four ethno-cultural communities in response to their identification of significant barriers to services for immigrants and refugees, Access Alliance has since expanded its mandate by undertaking ongoing needs assessments and looking at its role within the sector of immigrant and refugee serving agencies and other community health centres in Toronto.

Our current strategic directions are:

  • Promote the successful long-term integration of Immigrants and Refugees through targeted advocacy regarding key systemic issues and collaboration.
  • Engage local communities to address issues that impact their lives by mobilizing community assets, building capacity and creating connections.
  • Ensure service excellence by pursuing funding strategically and by applying evidence, inter-professional practice and effective partnerships in service and program delivery.

Our Programs How We Do It

Access Alliance works to promote health, wellbeing and improved access to services for immigrants and refugees in Toronto. We have three locations: downtown (College and Spadina), AccessPoint on Danforth at Danforth and Victoria Park and AccessPoint On Jane at Jane and St. Clair. We provide health care and community services and are a leader in community-based research and advocacy on issues related to the determinants of health and wellbeing.

As a community health centre, we are unique in our focus on providing culturally sensitive and language accessible health care specifically for refugees and newcomers to Canada. Our interdisciplinary team includes diabetes educators, community health nurses and nurse practitioners, physicians, administrative support staff, interpreters, psychiatrists, registered dietitians, registered practical nurses and social workers.

Access Alliance provides free settlement services to support newcomers. These services include one-on-one settlement counselling, a resource centre for newcomers, and newcomer education workshops.

Our community programs include peer outreach for families with young children and women's programs such as ESL for pregnant women, expressive arts, health workshops and prenatal nutrition and support programs. Our youth-focused programs include drop-in activities, one-on-one support and the popular Friends for Youth Program. Access Alliance is a leader in programming for newcomers who identify as LGBTQ, offering drop-in programs for youth, settlement services, arts groups, anti-violence and capacity building programming.

We use partnerships as a key strategy to influence broader social change and support good health outcomes for newcomers, their families and the communities they live and work in. Our strategic advocacy and community-based research relationships have resulted increased access to services for marginalized groups.

In addition to direct service, research and advocacy activities, Access Alliance operates Access Alliance Language Services, an independent fee-for-service business providing immediate over the phone interpretation, face to face and translation services to partners clients in the GTA.

Green Access Program

The Green Access Program is based at the Green Roof at Access Point on Danforth. This program, started in 2011, is geared towards community engagement and the promotion of environmental awareness, food security and healthy eating, with a focus on hands-on learning and capacity building. As it gets established, the Green Roof will be a demonstration project to inspire other health service providers and local residents to take positive actions towards environmental stewardship and to incorporate garden & food programs into health services. The Green Roof features more than 5,500 square feet of gardening beds, demonstration space, walkways, and systems for composting and catching rainwater. With the help of community volunteers and a range of visiting groups, the garden flourished with flowers, multicultural vegetables and herbs throughout the growing season. The Green Roof provides a unique setting for education about how environmental issues relate to health in an inner-city context and making the links between environmental and social issues.

Funding and Program Partners

Ontario Trillium Foundation (3-year program funding)

Capital funding for Green Roof construction (past) and community greenhouse (planned for late 2012):

  • Ontario Trillium Foundation capital fund
  • The United Way of Greater Toronto
  • BMO
  • Live Green Toronto Capital Fund

Program partners:

  • East York East Toronto Family Resources (EYET)
  • Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP)
  • World Crops Project and Toronto Public Health
  • Crescent Town School
  • Local public schools
  • The Permaculture Project – Greater Toronto Area

Program Impact

Benefits of Green Access Program were multiple and varied. The Green Roof allows for an intersection of health benefits with nutrition, physical activity, social interaction, skills-building with volunteers, and community engagement via public events and educational workshops. It offers to the community is an outdoor space to grow fresh food for residents of high-rise buildings who do not otherwise have access to green space, least of all space for vegetable or flower gardens.

Number of people served in 2011:

  • Garden drop-in programs: 66 participants
  • Workshop participants: 109 (6 workshops)
  • Community events attendance: 400 (4 events)

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Local green spaces encourage active living, and are likely to improve wellbeing, neighbourhood connections and a sense of safety."

Participant Vignette

"Our classroom loved going to the roof top garden. We learned that people can eat plants. And mustard comes from plants. The first day we went we planted strawberry plants and got buckets of soil from the street. I think the roof top garden is important because it gives food to the animals and people. "student of Crescent Town School's Grade 3 / 4 class.

The Peer Outreach Program

The Peer Outreach Program serves families with children aged zero to six years and is based on a Peer Outreach Model. In this model, we recruit, train and hire immigrant/refugee women to create links with other newcomer women and children who speak the same language.

Peer Outreach Workers are strategically placed in under-serviced neighbourhoods and support community members to access resources in their area, create social support networks that reduce isolation, participate more actively in the community and improve their health and well-being. This program also provides information/referrals to health and social services; accompaniment to and interpretation at medical appointments, meetings and parenting workshops and fitness programs.

We also support the proliferation of this model at other organizations. Our Newcomer Women Early Years Peer Outreach Training Curriculum outlines the core competencies required of an effective Peer Outreach Worker. We created a curriculum manual, which is rooted in adult education principles and organized according to core competencies . The manual is available to organizations working with newcomer women who are engaged in peer outreach.

Funding and Program Partners

Funding is provided by the

  • Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network (TC LHIN)
  • The City of Toronto's Community Services Partnerships grants
  • The United Way of Toronto

Currently Peer Outreach Workers are delivering services through community placements with the following organizations:

  • Afghan Women's Association
  • Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre
  • Jane and Finch Community and Family Centre
  • Warden Woods Community Centre
  • Working Women's Centre

 

Program Impact

The Peer Outreach program impacts not only  the families in the communities being served, but also the peers themselves. Families are able to connect to programs and services they need, with the support of another woman who speaks the same language and understands their needs. Last year, 6 peers provided service approximately 2000 times to women and children in the community, providing information, referrals, interpretation and support in system navigation.

The peers benefit by gaining Canadian work experience, professional learning and growth. The training they receive prepares them to find meaningful employment when their 3 year contract is complete.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Children are generally poor because their families are poor. But more than one-third of low-income children in Ontario are children of the working poor:

  • In 2009, 111,300 children living in poverty had at least one parent who worked the equivalent of a full-time full-year"

Participant Vignette

Hema, a Tamil speaking Peer Outreach worker in the Malvern area, identified the need for home-based child care training in the neighbourhood. She recognized that within the Tamil community, most childcare is done informally by friends and neighbours, many of whom are newcomers to the city and do not have a sound understanding of Canadian parenting norms and resources available. Hema took this idea to Access Alliance to support 17 women to become licensed as home-based child care workers. Several years later, the certificate program continues to be sponsored in different communities by Access Alliance.

In this example numerous people benefited:

  • Numerous children have benefited by receiving care from trained child care workers
  • Women with children now have the opportunity to work or participate in community events, leaving their children in the care of trained workers
  • Hema has continued to be a voice for change in her community and her work contributed to other new programs being developed. She went on the build her career and currently is employed in settlement services.

Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program

"Children are generally poor because their families are poor. But more than one-third of low-income children in Ontario are children of the working poor:

  • In 2009, 111,300 children living in poverty had at least one parent who worked the equivalent of a full-time full-year"

Participant Vignette

Hema, a Tamil speaking Peer Outreach worker in the Malvern area, identified the need for home-based child care training in the neighbourhood. She recognized that within the Tamil community, most childcare is done informally by friends and neighbours, many of whom are newcomers to the city and do not have a sound understanding of Canadian parenting norms and resources available. Hema took this idea to Access Alliance to support 17 women to become licensed as home-based child care workers. Several years later, the certificate program continues to be sponsored in different communities by Access Alliance.

In this example numerous people benefited:

  • Numerous children have benefited by receiving care from trained child care workers
  • Women with children now have the opportunity to work or participate in community events, leaving their children in the care of trained workers
  • Hema has continued to be a voice for change in her community and her work contributed to other new programs being developed. She went on the build her career and currently is employed in settlement services.

What You Can Do

Green Access Program

With additional financial assistance, the Green Access Program would be able to provide more in-depth educational and skills-building activities relating to Food Security and Environment.  We could provide more gardening resources to community members, such as workshops, plants, tools, soil, planters for high-rise residents and community gardeners. Installation of new Green Roof features could greatly enhance food production and educational opportunities on the Green Roof, such as raised planters for accessibility to people in wheelchairs or with physical mobility issues, beehives and training relating to beehive, shrubs and native plants, compost bins, field trips to local farms as educational opportunity for community members, training workshops for participants and health service providers.

Investment in this program could also allow us to bring the Green Access Program to our west end location at Jane and Woolner.

With financial support, Access Alliance can build on the incredible impact that the Green Access Program has already made in such a short time.  We would be able to deepen the knowledge and strengthen the skill building element of our program, and reach communities in both our east end and west end locations.

With additional funding, the Peer Outreach program can expand to add:

  • An additional peer position and reach another ethno-specific newcomer community.
  • It could allow peers to do more accompaniments with clients in the community and provide additional time to assist community members at appointments.
  • A key component of the peer program is the training that the peer women receive during their 3 year employment. Additional funds could pay for more training in group facilitation, thereby increasing the toolkit of skills that they take with them to their next employment opportunity.

 

The Peer Outreach program 

With additional funding, the Peer Outreach program can expand to add:

  • An additional peer position and reach another ethno-specific newcomer community.
  • It could allow peers to do more accompaniments with clients in the community and provide additional time to assist community members at appointments.
  • A key component of the peer program is the training that the peer women receive during their 3 year employment. Additional funds could pay for more training in group facilitation, thereby increasing the toolkit of skills that they take with them to their next employment opportunity.

Donation impact

Additional funding would enable the Peer Outreach Program to expand and reach more of the immigrant and refugee communities in Toronto to impove the lives of newcomer women and their families.

Contact

Axelle Janczur
Executive Director
416.324.8677 x230
Charitable Number: 123636664RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 9,149,664

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