International Migrants Day – Supporting Newcomers today and beyond!

Quick escape link leading to Weather Network websiteQuick Escape International Migrants Day, December 18, 2023. Celebrating the diversity of immigrants and advocating for their rights and protection

Today is International Migrants Day.

It is a day designated by the United Nations to raise awareness about the contributions of migrants, as well as the challenges they may face. The day also aims to promote the protection of their rights. It serves as an opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by migrants and to promote policies and actions that ensure their well-being and dignity.

The most recent study carried out by the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council (HIPC) on the perspectives of immigrants and newcomers in Canada revealed that significant challenges included the high cost of housing, insufficient income, and difficulties in securing suitable employment. Despite reporting high levels of life satisfaction, a strong sense of belonging, and positive perceptions of safety, immigrants and newcomers expressed feelings of isolation and instances of discrimination.

At YWCA Hamilton, we understand the formidable challenges that immigrants and newcomers face in the process of settling in Canada. With a commitment to recognizing the complexities of immigration and settlement, our JOIN (Immigration and Settlement Program) team actively works to understand and alleviate some of the obstacles faced by newcomer women, girls, and gender-diverse folks.

Thaer Trad is one of YWCA Hamilton’s Syrian Settlement Counsellors and offers supports and services in Arabic. He shares the array of services offered by JOIN. He says “we do one-on-one or group settlement counselling – where we provide support with government applications like applying for citizenship, renewing permanent residency cards, and applying for travel documents. If we are not able to help with something in particular, we refer newcomers to community resources. We also hold monthly information sessions on different topics of settlement support like housing, human rights, and more.”

Thaer also shares that he came to Canada in 2016 from Syria and had studied to be a lawyer. However, his studies and credentials were not recognized. He outlines that many immigrants and newcomers face a similar issue – their credentials or experiences are not recognized in Canada. Outside of settlement services, the JOIN program offers employment services that offer free employment and training programs to help newcomers start or continue their careers.

Syrian Settlement Counsellor: Thaer Trad
Languages: Arabic, English

Sagal Jama, a Somali Settlement Counsellor, shares that she started working with YWCA Hamilton to bring newcomer women, girls and gender-diverse folks together and discuss relevant topics within her community. She mentions the importance of knowing the language, having the specific cultural background and helping newcomers. She shares “As with many newcomers, language remains a huge barrier and because of my identity, my culture, I am able to navigate complex discussions, in a manner where newcomers can understand me.”

Apart from settlement services, the JOIN program offers Community & Cultural Connection workshops for newcomers that provide a safe space to discuss struggles with coming to a new country, becoming intertwined within the greater Hamilton community, and mental health.

Somali Settlement Counsellor: Sagal Jama
Languages: Somali, English

Similarly, Svitlana Bondarenko, fluent in Ukrainian and Russian, and our Ukrainian Settlement Counsellor, emphasizes the linguistic and cultural diversity within the JOIN team at YWCA Hamilton. The settlement counsellors are multilingual and share common cultural backgrounds and journeys with immigrants and newcomers. She highlights “more times than not, people are just seeking a familiar face and an empathetic ear”.

Svitlana also mentions “finding stable and affordable housing is a major challenge for newcomers and we help clients to apply for subsidies or housing. In collaboration with our childcare team, we also organize recreational programs for Newcomer children. The JOIN team, with child services, also and childcare for newcomer children.”

Ukrainian Settlement Counsellor: Svitlana Bondarenko
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, English

Expanding on the services offered by the JOIN program, Tamanna Jaliss, the Afghani Settlement Counsellor, shares “we offer interpretation and translation services for clients to assist in various tasks they would otherwise have difficulty completing due to language barriers e.g. understanding various forms, reaching out to government organizations, helping them make an appointment with a family doctor, and more.”

She also shares that many newcomer women, girls, and gender-diverse folks who seek YWCA Hamilton’s services also often disclose their experience with gender-based violence. The JOIN program, in collaboration with Housing and Gender Based Violence services, offers free counselling, workshops and referral.

Afghani Settlement Counsellor: Tamanna Jaliss
Languages: Persian, Dari, English

The Join Program, in partnership with Speqtrum, also offers safe spaces for 2SLGBTQIA+ newcomers.

Svitlana notes the importance of empowerment, stating “while we help newcomers with all these different things, we want to make sure that they learn how to do it – it is about empowering the people and giving them the resources to grow.”

By fostering a supportive environment, the JOIN program and team seeks to empower immigrants and newcomers, promoting a sense of belonging while addressing issues of isolation and discrimination. Through specialized workshops, needs assessment and referrals, and enhanced supports, the JOIN program strives to contribute to the overall well-being and successful integration of individuals navigating the intricate journey of immigration and settlement in Hamilton and Canada.

Learn more about our JOIN (Immigration and Settlement program) initiatives here.

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