For immigrant families new to Newfoundland and Labrador, the beginning of the school year can be just one more source of stress on top of setting up a home, starting a career and being surrounded by a new language.
On top of all that is a global pandemic.
That's why Black Lives Matter NL is holding Backpack NL, an ongoing fundraiser that began with a show Thursday at the Rob Roy club on George Street in St. John's.
Organizer Nuna Toweh said the group has connected with a few families that they want to help any way they can.
"We're just trying to raise money for families who cannot afford to buy school supplies for their back to school, because a lot of people were affected because of the pandemic."
'I have to start from literally the bottom'
Helping with school supplies takes care of at least one task on the list for immigrant families with young children.
Organizer Raven Khadeja said it often takes a long time for newcomers to find work in the province.
"One of the main issues we have… international students and whatnot, we have a serious problem getting employment unless we have any type of recommendation from within the province," said Khadeja.
"I have to start from literally the bottom."
There have been national attempts to help the issue and connect highly-trained immigrants with jobs, such as with the Federal Skilled Workers program.
BLMNL co-founder Precious Familusi said issues of systemic racism can still creep into policy.
"There's plenty of doctors there who've had PhDs in their country, but when they come here it is viewed as next to nothing. If you study law in the UK, you can come to Canada and practise, as long as you do a few exams."
Even school COVID-19 restrictions hit immigrant families in unexpected ways.
Online learning has benefits, but has presented challenges for families, both new and settled in the province, despite measures to make classes more accessible.
"That shift online was difficult for a lot of people," said Familusi.
"Schools were giving out free iPads when the school first went online, but they had to sign a contract. If anything happens to the iPad, you have to fully pay it back. And while it's great and appreciated to give it out, a lot of families would be scared to take it because you never know what can happen in a household and some households do not have the ability to pay that back."
Toweh said there is an even bigger divide happening between immigrant students and their classmates.
"Throughout the 2020 pandemic, a lot of kids got skipped a grade ahead. That affects a lot of immigrant students too because the education they learned back home isn't the same as here."
"They probably won't be able to catch up to the rest of their age group to be able to graduate."
Organizers used to COVID-19 restrictions
Black Lives Matter NL has seen immense support in St. John's, according to organizers, but a pandemic is a difficult time to forge ahead with fundraisers and demonstrations.
This week's event was livestreamed on the BLMNL Facebook page and saw an equal number of attendees in person and online in order to meet public safety guidelines. Continuing Backpack NL fundraisers, such as an upcoming online auction, will be organized in a similar way.
The group is used to pandemic restrictions, having only been formed since the height of COVID-19 in the province.
Their initial rally in early June saw thousands of supporters, but no subsequent spike in COVID-19 cases. It's something organizers like Rave Khadeja are proud of, but still take seriously.
"I think our team … had that pretty much down pat," she said.
"We have seen such an amazing, overwhelming amount of support from the St. John's community online. And a lot of people are actually telling us it's their way to support us without actually attending because I mean, at the end of the day, it is a pandemic."