One Winnipeg organization acts as a second family for people coming into Manitoba, walking alongside them in the transition. 

Dorota Blumczynska is the Executive Director of Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM). 

"It's a one of a kind organization in all of Canada that provides long-term transitional housing, so families stay with us for up to three years."

The waitlist is long for people who want to take advantage of IRCOM's three-year program. 

"While they live with us and when they transition to the community, they have access to a whole host of programs, services, and supports that are intended to help them meaningfully integrate into Canadian society."

Staff are on-site at IRCOM 24 hours a day, and together they speak roughly 25 different languages. 

"Over 70 per cent of the staff come from an immigrant or refugee background. Everything we focus on during those three years at IRCOM is always looking towards emotional integration. Ensuring that our families feel valued, loved, and heard. Our role is not to give them a handout, but a hand up."

Blumczynska started volunteering with IRCOM and she's been there for thirteen years. Her passion to work there stems from being a refugee herself. 

"I came to Canada myself in 1989. My family came under the privately sponsored refugee program. I had grown up most of my life under the impression that we were immigrants. There's a real difference between being an immigrant and a refugee."

The difference lies in people's choices, the ability to choose where you want to live as well as the circumstances of why people leave their country, according to Blumczynska.

"I've always been deeply connected to the newcomer community because that is my shared experience. The moment there was an employment opportunity in the English language program to teach part-time, I jumped on it and not looked back."

Learning a new language is only one of the barriers when refugees flee to a new country. 

"I was born in Poland and then we went to Germany and spent about 14 months in a refugee camp before we were resettled in Canada. I remember many wonderful things about it, and other things that were much harder."

Blumczynska went back to the area in Germany in her 20s to see it again. Her family had stayed in an apartment complex just outside a city with other refugees from all over Eastern Europe.

"Our options were limited as there were only two countries that were accepting Easter European refugees at that point, Canada or Australia and my parents chose Canada."

There were large Polish church groups that decided to privately sponsor refugees in the 1980s and they helped bring Blumczynska's family over. 

Now she works at helping others feel welcomed when they arrive.