Communities are foundational to belonging. Not only are they important sources of social connection, but they also make us feel safe and supported, and they give us a strong sense of purpose – connecting us to causes and networks greater than ourselves. For immigrants who are starting new lives here, community integration is essential to their settlement and well-being.
ISANS’ Community Integration Services are specifically designed to connect immigrants to their local communities to meet others, gain or build skills, or increase their local knowledge. We connect them to information, activities, volunteering opportunities, and other ISANS and community services to empower them to participate, contribute, and grow in meaningful ways.
While our Community Integration Services support immigrants of all ages as individuals, families, or both, supporting immigrant youth has been a great source of pride for us this year. After identifying the need for a youth program with flexible eligibility criteria, we partnered with Emera to launch Youth Explore! – a program that aims to help newcomer youth aged 16-25 settle into their community and work on their employment goals.
In Youth Explore!, we offer participants orientation workshops on life in Canada, as well as pre-employment workshops, and we help them build on their own assets and skills through self-reflection and goal-setting. Then, we connect them to further integration supports such as volunteering opportunities, employment counselling, and even professional mentorship matches with our funding partner Emera. And, to give youth a chance to connect with each other and simply have fun – the best part of being young – the program also facilitates group activities such as popular bowling, games, and pizza nights.
As one participant reported, “my experience with Youth Explore! was amazing,” explaining that the connections they made “will continue to benefit me far into the future.” Youth – especially immigrant youth – often fall through the cracks of existing programs, but they are and have always been strong and effective contributors to their communities. To ensure they receive equitable support, we understand that we must adapt and remain innovative in our service delivery, and we’re looking forward to continuing that work.