We applied to the Youth Creativity Fund to fund our program, "Invitation to Belonging," to address the needs and barriers that may face our participants. We had the support of Volunteer Waterloo Region and other organizations, but our biggest problem was actually funding the program. We were even planning on raising money by selling bracelets. So we are extremely grateful to BEP for their support.
We wanted to provide newcomers with the skills and resources they needed to successfully integrate into Canadian society without feeling alienated or pressured to assimilate. We wanted to address the loneliness, isolation, and lack of knowledge regarding Canadian systems and cultures that newcomers face to encourage feelings of inclusiveness and belonging. Feeling that you belong is a strong determinant of health, which is why we need more youth to be included, valued, and supported in their community.
We used the majority of the money to buy bus tickets for the participants to prevent transportation being a barrier for attendance. We used the rest of the money to buy snacks for the participants, honorariums for speakers, and resources for the program’s activities.
The program was a success! The participants enjoyed coming and connecting with one another while also gaining important skills and resources. We had over 14 participants and around 7 parents joined us in the program. It was great having this program be intergenerational because we were able to hear from so many different perspectives, which led to more meaningful and impactful conversations. We were also able to discuss important topics such as mental health, postsecondary education, volunteering, and employment opportunities. We were able to have empowering speakers from Volunteer Waterloo Region, the Immigration Partnership, and the KW Multicultural Center. What really made this program a success was having participants say the program was a safe space for them. We wanted the youth to feel appreciated and comfortable sharing whatever they wanted with the group, regardless of the topic. This was important to us because our main goal for the program was to have a place where newcomers could feel included and feel like they truly belong.
We have plans to continue the program both virtually and in person. Since we planned this program with the support of Volunteer Waterloo Region, we wanted this program to advocate for youth leadership, which it did! We are overjoyed to have participants from the program be willing to lead future "Invitation to Belonging" programs. We hope we can promote and run this program in other communities around Waterloo Region.
We are so grateful that BEP Waterloo Region was willing to support and fund our program. Without this incredible organization, it would have been extremely difficult to fully accomplish the objectives of our program. BEP Waterloo Region was very helpful. They were always willing to lend a hand when needed. They always believed in us and in the program.