Welcoming Syrian Refugees YMCA Newcomer Programs YMCA Youth Programs

A youth perspective on the Syrian Cultural Event

Three youth in blue YMCA shirts stand below a mural of a tree

By Sangeetha Ram and Rheign Morales

On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, the YMCA of Greater Toronto community came together at the Central Y for a youth-focused Syrian Cultural Event — featuring a talent show, an information fair, a community meal, engaging workshops, and an outpouring of gratitude for the local communities that welcomed Syrian refugees with open arms.

The event, organized by Rawand Al-Assaf, Karim Brahimi, and participants in the Y’s Arabic NYLD group, was a great showcase for the amazing talent and passion emerging from this new youth program. “NYLD participants showcased their talents through the art, dance and photography, and conducted workshops where they touched upon experiences back in their home countries,” says Karim. “Plus, they told stories about their journeys to Canada, and shared information about their cultural origins.”

The night kicked off with a Networking and Information Fair where different programs, services, and resources were presented to refugees and other newcomers to support their settlement. YMCA of Greater Toronto Chief Operations and Service Officer Jane Pyper and the City Councillor Joe Mihevc (Ward 21, St. Paul’s), warmly welcomed attendees with inspirational speeches which were met with roaring applause.

Arabic NYLD youth and their families then took the stage and shared their many talents and experiences The female NYLD participants talked about their lives in Syria and created a touching video highlighting their gratitude towards Canada. Additionally, three talented youth rappers brought tears to many eyes as they vividly described their emotions through their insightful lyrics. After a delicious buffet with various Syrian delicacies, music filled the air as the youth performed a traditional Dabke dance which had everyone up and on their feet.

The evening was filled with laughter and dancing as the participants learned more about Syrian heritage and participated in a wide range of activities. All in all, the Syrian Culture Event was a night of great celebration uniting different cultural identities and embracing multiculturalism. It helped some amazing talent and welcome Syrians into their new community to help them embark on a new chapter of their lives.

Sangeetha and Rheign are high school students, Y volunteers and staff members, and mentors to newcomer youth.