National News

YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services is first point of contact for newcomers to Hamilton.

March 24, 2011.

“The YMCA is here to help all newcomers find the services they need in order to settle into the community,” says Lily Lumsden, General Manager of YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services for the YMCA of Hamilton/Burlington/Brantford.

“The YMCA will also provide services to newcomer youth in schools, and continue to help them access recreational opportunities in the community,” says Lumsden.

YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services recently hired 18 new employees to meet the needs of newcomers to Hamilton. These new employees are currently in training and will start work in the next two weeks. Most have worked for other agencies providing settlement services, and bring experience and expertise to helping newcomers, says Lumsden.

YMCA Immigrant Settlement Services will hire another five employees shortly, bringing the total number of new hires to 23. Of those 23 new employees, 19 are full-time and 4 are part-time.

THE COMMUNITY:

The YMCA is opening three Newcomer Information Centres in spring. The first will open at the beginning of April in downtown Hamilton, 25 Main St. E. This centre will be open full-time and the YMCA is currently firming up office hours.

Two smaller Newcomer Information Centres will open by early May with part-time hours. One will be located in east-end Hamilton, and the other will be on the Hamilton Mountain. Locations and hours of operation are being finalized.

The YMCA’s existing Newcomer Information Centres for Youth – specializing in helping newcomer youth settle into Hamilton -- will operate out of these three sites.

Services for newcomer youth and adults will include assessments to determine what they need in terms of such things as employment, language training and recreation. Newcomer Information Centres will also refer newcomers to local agencies and organizations that can help them fulfill their settlement needs, such as English language classes.

SCHOOLS:

Ten of the new hires are settlement workers for schools, and they will have the support of 3 additional YMCA staff from Newcomer Information Centres. YMCA settlement workers will be in schools by the beginning of April.

“We are confident that YMCA settlement workers can fulfill the needs of newcomer youth in our schools,” says Lumsden. “Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) gives very clear guidelines on services that must be delivered by these workers and the system we are putting in place definitely meets those service requirements.”

Examples of services include helping parents and students understand the Canadian educational system, helping parents understand their child’s report card, connecting teens to summer jobs and connecting teens to recreational opportunities, including recreational opportunities designed especially to help immigrant youth feel welcome in Canada.

YMCA settlement workers will not be in schools during the summer, which follows CIC requirements and is in line with past practice by SISO which did not have settlement workers in schools last summer.

RECREATION/ NEWCOMER YOUTH:

The YMCA Newcomer Youth Centre opened in late 2010 at the Hamilton Downtown Family YMCA. This free drop-in centre is for refugee and immigrant youth and their friends who are between the ages of 13 and 24.

“The YMCA Newcomer Youth Centre gives youth a place to socialize, play games, find employment, take part in the homework club and join English conversation circles,” says Lumsden. “Youth can also take advantage of the extensive recreational programming offered at the YMCA, including the pool, gymnasium, fitness centre and squash and racquetball courts.”

Programming especially for immigrant youth includes a special soccer night at the YMCA, where youth practice soccer skills with a former professional player who is also a newcomer to Canada.

“We welcome newcomer youth to the YMCA and encourage them to access our extensive recreational and fitness programming,” says Lumsden.

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