Welcoming Syrian Refugees Y Stories YMCA Newcomer Programs

Two teens receive a warm welcome to Canada

Three teenage girls smiling

Fatima and Fadila arrived in Canada a few weeks ago. Coming to a new country can be challenging for anyone, but as teenagers arriving right before the start of a new school year, they have a lot on their minds. Fortunately, thanks to the kindness and generosity of three important people they’ve encountered so far, the girls already have a solid foundation.

Person #1: The NYLD Advisor

When their parents visited the Newcomer Information Centre to take their language assessment tests, Fatima and Fadila were introduced to Matt, an advisor with the Newcomer Youth Leadership Development (NYLD) program. Matt’s warm and friendly attitude clued them in to what was in store for them at NYLD. “After we came home from [NYLD], we decided that we liked it very much and wanted to keep going,” Fatima says with a smile.


three teenage girls with phone

From left: Fadila, Selina and Fatima while out and about in Toronto–and communcating via Google Translate.

Person #2: The new friend (with a clever idea)

Though the girls were enjoying themselves at NYLD, they were eager to communicate with their new friends, although their beginner-level English made it hard for them to talk with others. Selina, visiting from China for the summer, reached out and made them feel at home they best way any teenager knows how — with a phone. The girls soon figured out that they could talk by using Google Translate, and learn a few words from their respective languages. “We know two Mandarin words,” says Fatima. “I want to learn French, too.”

group of 5 girls and boys

From left: Louis (youth advisor, Next Stop Canada; Matt (youth advisor, NYLD); Fatima, Fadila, Hana (peer mentor, NYLD).

Person #3: The peer mentor

When Hana first met Fatima and Fadila, she went out of her way to say hello. “When I asked if they spoke Arabic and they said yes, they seemed a bit relieved that someone could talk with them,” she says. “Kind of like I was when I went to NYLD for the first time.” Hana has learned quickly about life in Canada (she came from Egypt several years ago), so she’s made it her mission to help the girls as they transition to Canadian life. Even before she became a peer mentor at NYLD, Hana met with the girls to let them know about what to expect as they start school this year, among many other aspects of life as a teen in Toronto.

Fatima and Fadila have already learned a lot during their time in Canada so far, but perhaps there’s one more lesson to be had: be hopeful. Though they know that the next few months won’t be easy, they have been able to dream big because of people who believe in them.

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