Healthy Communities YMCA Newcomer Programs

How our immigrant services change lives (part one)

By Victoria Alvarez

The YMCA’s wide range of immigrant services aim to help newcomers effectively transition and feel settled in their new home. Whether individuals need information about their new community, or help finding the tools to begin their new lives, our services focus on helping people ensure that they feel welcome — at the Y, and in Canada.

This post, the first in a two-part series, takes a look at two of our most vital immigrant services.

Newcomer Information Centres

Leila, who came to Canada from Iran with her 9-year-old son, was overwhelmed upon her arrival to Canada. Fortunately, the Y was there to help. “The YMCA had a great impact on my new life in Canada,” she says. “As a newcomer who was totally confused to find her way, the YMCA made it clear.”

Leila first visited a Newcomer Information Centre (NIC) only two days after landing in Canada. She was relieved to find a very welcoming centre, with caring staff. NIC is a welcoming gateway for newcomers in need of settlement-related services: serving over 10,000 newcomers every year, NIC provides individualized referrals to settlement services and government funded programs.

On the first meeting, Leila was offered language training, which was a top priority for her. As a result, the program helped boost her self-confidence concerning Canadian culture. The NIC program also provides information sessions about access to employment, education, and settlement information.

After her NIC visit, Leila was able to prepare her resume, and she applied for a job directly after receiving her language certificate.

Newcomer Youth Leadership Development

With eight locations across the GTA, the Y’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development (NYLD) program provides youth between the ages of 13 and 24 with opportunities for community involvement in a safe and supportive environment. Additionally, youth groups meet with their advisors once a week to participate in activities, including the annual NYLD Sports Day, where youth compete for the Spirit Award.

Smritee, a youth from Nepal, was extremely nervous to begin her NYLD journey, but is nonetheless thrilled she did in the end, observing how welcoming and friendly her advisor was upon her arrival. “NYLD has become one of the best things that has happened to me since I came to Canada,” she says. “I cannot describe with words how safe and included I’ve felt throughout my time in NYLD.”

Most importantly, NYLD is an opportunity for youth to develop skills that can better support their future journey; the objective is a positive and enjoyable settlement experience. NYLD helped build Smritee’s confidence through meeting new people and developing the leadership qualities she always wanted. “It has changed me for the better, and I will always be grateful to everyone who helped, and will help, me at the YMCA.”

The second post in our series highlights two other Immigrant Services the Y offers: Next Stop Canada, and our Coordinated Language Assessment and Referral Centre.