08 Jul COA creates a new initiative for Youth Refugees

By: YMCA of Greater Toronto

Canada resettles approximately 3,500 Youth Refugees between the age of 10 and 19 years old every year. Approximately 2,300 of them attend the Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) session provided by IOM. In partnership with the YMCA of Greater Toronto, COA is gearing up for the start of a new pre-departure initiative to support Youth Refugees.

COA is committed to engaging youth refugees to play an active role in the settlement of their families. Acknowledging that youth have specific needs and learning abilities that can be addressed during pre-departure orientation, COA started developing pre-departure resources and activities specifically designed for youth refugees in 2011. During fiscal year 2012-13, COA piloted a new Youth Refugee Curriculum in various permanent and mobile training sessions. Focus groups and personal interviews were conducted with many of the youth participants, leading to the finalization of the new COA Youth Refugee Curriculum in March 2013.

Today, the Youth Refugee Curriculum and Youth Refugee Activity Kit help the COA facilitators provide tailored pre-departure orientation services to Youth Refugees.   

Providing separate youth refugees sessions can be challenging as the number of youth in any given session tends to be low, especially in urban settings. However, it is not rare to see groups with up to 7 or 8 participants between the age of 10 and 19 years old. Whenever possible, COA organizes a separate session with the youth participants. Such sessions have taken place in many permanent and mobile training locations, including Cameroon, Chad, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malaysia, Tanzania, Turkey and Zambia.

Starting in fiscal year 2014-15, COA will implement a new youth refugee initiative in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Toronto and a number of relevant (re)settlement service providers across Canada.

The COA Youth Refugee Program will provide clients with children aged 10 to 19 with a tailored pre-departure information package. This package will include information on settlement and youth programming in the Greater Toronto area, and a flyer informing them about the possibility to get an individual pre-departure information session with the COA Youth Programming Assistant based in Toronto.

The program will also involve Canadian youth as mentors and advisors to generate ideas and connect with Youth Refugee before their arrival in Canada. The plan is to expand the development of the pre-departure information package to be customized to regions across Canada to increase youth’s knowledge of what to expect when they arrive. 

Photos from COA Youth Refugee sessions.

The YMCA in Canada is a National Federation that has 50 member associations across the country, each working to develop and offer programs based on community needs.  Throughout the history of YMCA in Canada, the organization has supported newcomers to adapt to life in Canada through job training, literacy and language programs, accommodation and education. The YMCA in Canada has always been a place for youth to gather, grow, learn and get support in realizing their potential and serving others. Many of the programs offered by YMCAs across Canada focus on areas such as mentoring, entrepreneurship, leadership, substance abuse, gambling and smoking reduction, parenting skills for teen moms, job search support, literacy training and academic upgrading. The YMCA continues to facilitate community connections for recently arrived newcomers by working with community partners and stakeholders across Canada and increasing newcomers’ awareness of supports and services available. 

Building on the YMCAs extensive network of partners and sound programming for youth and newcomers, this partnership will enable COA to extend its reach and work with a multitude of local stakeholders, thus ensuring that youth refugees are supported during their transition from overseas to Canada.

To learn more about the new Youth Refugee Program, please contact COA Canada at coa-oce@iom.int.