Using design to help change lives for refugees in Canada: Refugee Network of Ottawa launches toolkit

Launching on Refugee Rights Day in Partnership with Design for Citizens

Over the last several months, Now Creative Group worked with our partners Design for Citizens and their collaborators to design a key print material for refugees arriving in Canada.

A new toolkit, in the form of a printed resource, created by ReNoO (Refugee Network of Ottawa) has been officially released on April 4. With the collaborative efforts of Design for Citizens and Refugee 613, Now Creative Group helped design this resource and to make navigating life in Canada easier for new refugees.

Some of the most challenging tasks an asylum refugee goes through, outside of quickly leaving and making a long journey to a foreign country, is worrying about their basic needs. Upon arriving in Canada, unlike sponsored refugees, there is often no one to welcome them or immediately take them to integrate them into their new home.

They often have to navigate their way around Canada with all of their belongings, sometimes not able to speak a word of English, and attempt figure out all the forms and documentation they need to fill, where they’re going to live, how to open a bank account, and even something as necessary as how they can get food.

Moving to a foreign country is challenging, even for those with funds and accommodations. But when you come into a country with no plan and no place to live, it can be extremely overwhelming and will leave you feeling discouraged. Many refugees are not even aware of the many services in place to help them begin their lives here.



To help refugees find these key services and support, Design for Citizens worked with ReNoO to create a new toolkit that will give refugees that peace of mind.

The new toolkit that Now Creative Group helped to design not only welcomes refugees to Canada but also lets them know where they can go to access services — everything from documentation to transportation, clothes, shelter options, how to find schools for their children, where to learn English and French, and more.



“With the rise of refugee claimants, many of them weren’t first accessing a settlement service or reception centre like Matthew House” explained Kailee Brennan, Outreach Officer at The Refugee Hub, in an interview with the Ottawa Morning this week. In the interview, she mentioned that Matthew House is a safe-haven for refugees who’ve had to flee their countries and provides them with help so they have a place to sleep, eat and help with learning how to navigate the complex Canadian immigration system.

“They might first be in a city-run homeless shelter or presenting at a health clinic, or a bus station. They don’t have access to this type of information, and many people feel like there aren’t any services out there when the city is full of things that refugee claimants can use to help in their settlement, and in their claim.”



People like Louisa Taylor, who is the director of Refugee 613 (an organization that works with partners that help support Ottawa’s response to the global refugee crisis) and her team of frontline workers have helped to launch and promote this new toolkit that will change the lives of refugees coming to Canada for the better.

As well as the help from Design for Citizens and Now Creative Group who designed the welcomingly bright toolkit. With all of the elements involved, they wanted to have a piece of work that used our design thinking but also have extensive user testing as part of the process as well. The outcome was a beautifully designed piece of resource that was user-friendly and informative.




With the launch of the event April 4, many tweets including one from CBC’s Ottawa Morning has helped promote the toolkit even more.

CBC was there and interviewed refugee Noor Sakhniya, who shared his concerns about when he first arrived in Ottawa:


The brochure is “low-tech” on purpose because many of the people who will find it most useful don’t have access to the internet when they first arrive. The paper format makes it easier to distribute at shelters and other locations.

With this new resource, refugees can now feel more safe and welcome when coming to Canada. They now know where to go, how to have access to all the services Canada provides to make them more comfortable, but ultimately this new resource gives them the peace of mind that they were searching for.



Now Creative Group is honoured to have been part of this project.




Thank you to our friends Marley Lewington, Tatiana Ulloa, and Jeff Neto at Design for Citizens for leading this project!


Article by Allison Lepage

Learn more about how Now Creative Group is using design for social good at nowcreativegroup.com/giving.

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