Communities Welcome the YMCA
The settlement process just got a little bit easier for newcomers in the city’s north and east ends adjusting to their new lives in Canada. On October 30, and November 1, 2007, the YMCA of Greater Toronto celebrated the official grand openings of its two newest Newcomer Information Centres, in North York and Scarborough, respectively. Well known for its commitment to and work within its communities, the YMCA incorporated this foundation into both events with the theme of community. The ceremonies used the services of the local businesses and talent – companies owned and operated by immigrants themselves or people who had immigrant experiences of their own that motivated them to take part in the events. The diversity of the each municipality was creatively showcased through the décor, entertainment, and floral arrangements.
In North York, guests enjoyed Persian food; Russian dancers (one of whom was also a member of the YMCA); and live Middle Eastern music. Medhat Medhani, the new Chair of the Board of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, entertained as the emcee and City Councillor Anthony Peruzza shared his own immigrant story.
The Scarborough event featured superb Thai and Chinese offerings, Indian sweets and garlands, and a classical music performance from a very talented father-daughter-son team from Iraq. Board Member, Pamela Grant, hosted the occasion; City Councillor
Raymond Cho, spoke of the importance and impact the Centre will have for the newcomer-strong, local neighbourhoods. As with the North York celebration, YMCA President and CEO, Scott Haldane, and Newcomer Services General Manager, Penny Pattinson, provided the background and history of the organization’s dedication to newcomers.
The YMCA of Greater Toronto has been supporting newcomers since 1977 when settlement services were first offered within the Korean community. Today, YMCA Korean Community Services is available in Korean, Mandarin and English.
In 1992, the YMCA began assessing for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, or LINC, as it’s commonly known. Many immigrants need to learn or improve their English skills and the organization is the sole provider of assessments for LINC in the city.
Assessors test and then refer newcomers to various schools across the GTA. The YMCA LINC Assessment Centres now operate alongside each of the Newcomer Information Centres. Together, and along with various other employment programs offered through the Y, newcomers can truly benefit from the one-stop-shop model of service.
The first Newcomer Information Centre (NIC) opened in the fall of 2001 in downtown Toronto. At the time, it was the first of its kind; a celebrated and welcome addition to the settlement effort. Attended by settlement and community partners, local dignitaries, members of the media, and even the former Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Elinor Caplan, the central site of the three centres has since helped well over 100,000 newcomers begin their new life in Canada. In total, the entire team speaks over 40 languages and newcomers can expect to receive a wide range of services that include: settlement information and referral, monthly information sessions, a guest speaker series (from professional members of the community and settlement sectors), volunteer opportunities, services for newcomer youth, as well as a library and a resource centre that gives free access to computers, fax, phone, and the internet.
The YMCA of Greater Toronto is one of the largest charitable organizations in North America. Since 1853, it has been providing members of the community with opportunities for personal growth, community involvement, and leadership. The North York and Scarborough Newcomer Centres are the latest initiatives launched to meet these goals.
If you need assistance starting your new life in Canada visit any of the three YMCA Newcomer Information Centres in Downtown Toronto (Yonge & Bloor), North York (Dufferin & Finch) or Scarborough (Markham & Milner). Call (416) 928-9622 or visit the website at www.ymcatoronto.org and click on “Newcomers”.