Empowering newcomers for recreation leadership

On Thursday, September 27, community members gathered at the Halifax Central Library for the launch of Picturing Recreation – a photo exhibit, the first phase of a two-phase initiative called Empowering Newcomers for Recreation Leadership. The initiative, a research and action-focused project, aims to empower newcomers to connect with their community through culture and recreation.

Thirty newcomers participated in photography lessons before going off to photograph their experience with recreation over the course of two weeks. The goal? To identify and share their values, experiences, and perceptions of recreation through photos while also addressing barriers that newcomers face in accessing recreation opportunities.

After taking the photos, participants gathered to discuss why the activities are important, what helps them participate in the activities, and what barriers get in the way. From these discussions, key themes were gathered and linked to the photos and quotes used in the exhibit.

Praise Mugisho arrived in Canada three years ago from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Speaking at the launch of the exhibit, she shared her experience with recreation. “Recreation is a huge part of settlement integration,” says Mugisho. “Through recreation, we get to learn all these things. We meet new friends, connect with the community, and learn about a new culture.”

Lani Poce, ISANS Community Connections Coordinator, sees first-hand the barriers people face accessing recreation and hopes that the second phase of the project will help remove some of the barriers identified in phase one.  “Many newcomers want to participate in leisure activities themselves and or want their kids involved because they understand the physical and mental benefits that recreation has,” says Poce. “They want to meet new people and connect to others who enjoy participating in similar activities, but they don’t know what is available or how to access it. Knowing this is only the first step in the process.”

The second phase of the project will work with newcomers to co-create a leadership program to help develop the leadership capacity of newcomers to provide culturally relevant peer support for recreation participation.  Mentored through volunteer and work opportunities in the community, newcomers in the program will help support recreation engagement among their peers.

“We need recreation organizations to hire more diverse staff who speak different languages and who understand some of the cultural considerations,” says Poce. “This is why the next part of the project is so vital. Working with newcomers to create a training program that will help them work with members of their community access recreation and leisure activities is essential in creating more accessible and welcoming spaces/programs.”

Picturing Recreation – a photo exhibit will be on display at the Halifax Central Library until October 21 before moving to other libraries, recreation facilities, and settlement organizations throughout Halifax.

Project partners include Dalhousie University (Schools of Occupational Therapy and Health and Human Performance, Faculty of Health) as well as ISANS, Halifax Libraries, Halifax Immigration Partnership, HRM Recreation, the South Shore Multicultural Association, and the Recreation Access for Newcomers (RAN) Partnership, with funding provided by a grant from the NS Department of Communities, Culture, and Heritage’s Cultural Innovation fund ($79,500) and Dalhousie University’s School of Occupational Therapy ($5000)