Morgan Brimacombe has a love of the arts, the outdoors, and nature-based activities, and as a volunteer Recreation Navigator with ISANS, she gets to explore all these interests alongside newcomers.
Our Recreation Navigator program matches volunteers with refugees to help them find recreational and leisure opportunities in the community, as well as empower them to navigate the recreation system on their own – a system that can be hard to learn for anybody. Volunteers work with families or individuals, allowing the volunteers to meet new people, make a positive impact in the lives of refugees, and be a part of a team committed to helping refugee and other immigrant families settle in Nova Scotia.
Morgan is an environmental science student who moved to Halifax from Vancouver Island in 2021 to attend Dalhousie University. She is also part of a community-engaged research project that focuses on the outdoor programs ISANS offers refugees.
“Nature and wellbeing, and community programs like the ones offered by ISANS, are really important to me,” says Morgan. “As I learned more about the work that ISANS does, I was more inspired to be involved in the community, and provide what I have in terms of skills and time to ISANS.”
Morgan has been volunteering as a Recreation Navigator for about two years now and says it has been very rewarding. For her, helping immigrants access recreation is beneficial both physically and emotionally. It helps everyone get out outside and be more active, and the social connection it provides is invaluable for mental health and personal growth.
“With all the different ways of experiencing nature and thinking about nature, it is important to have the space for different world views and different interests and priorities,” says Morgan. “Bringing people together and having fun and sharing those experiences shouldn’t be taken for granted. It should be promoted.”
In her time as a volunteer, Morgan has really enjoyed spending time with her match family and appreciates the program’s long-term approach. The Recreation Navigator program matches volunteers with families for 6-12 months, and after a few months, ISANS does a needs assessment with the family to see how they are progressing and assess whether they still need the support of a volunteer. If they don’t, ISANS tries to match their volunteer, if they are still interested, with another family.
What volunteers do with their match families differs from match to match, depending on the families’ needs. Morgan, for instance, has spent a lot of time on the computer applying for grants with her match family. But she has also gone to events with them, helped them map out and get to the events, and registered them for sporting activities.
Recreation Navigators undergo valuable training about working with refugees and vulnerable populations, and Morgan, specifically, has spent quite a bit of time getting acquainted with the work that ISANS does. Making sure she understood her role as a Recreation Navigator and how to create sustainable relationships with her match families has been important to her.
“One of the examples of a workshop that I attended was the trauma-informed workshop,” Morgan says, something that “I take with me in other areas of my life too.”
As an ISANS Recreation Navigator, Morgan has become familiar with Halifax Regional Municipality’s recreational programming and has met people who are working to mitigate some of the structural barriers that can prevent families – especially immigrant ones – from accessing recreation. This has only further inspired her to continue to work in the community sector.
To become a Recreation Navigator, or to learn more, check out the Recreation Navigator page on our website.