Reaching our newcomer friends thumbnail

July 14th, 2016

Reaching our newcomer friends

Recall the last time you moved. It was a lot of work, right? You probably took a while to feel comfortable and confident in your surroundings. When I moved from Hamilton to Waterloo in the ’90s for university, there was a lot of preparation that went into the move. I was also terribly home sick for the first few months. It took some time to meet new friends, find a grocery store I liked, a basketball team to join, and a new dentist I was comfortable with. It wasn’t until my second year here in Waterloo Region that I started to feel like I belonged.

My experience, albeit stressful at the time, cannot compare to the experience of a newcomer, for example, who has a son or daughter with a developmental or physical disability. Finding a dentist is easy compared to finding a psychologist to do an assessment, so that your child can access appropriate supports (especially when you don’t speak the language). I was guaranteed a place to livein the school’s residence, but imagine the newcomer family whose parents are not yet working but need a wheelchair accessible townhouse within their price range. Additionally, it was relatively easy to find a group of young men my age to play basketball with. For the child who may have experienced violence in their home country, can’t speak English, and who may have what is deemed to be “odd” mannerisms due to their autism, making friends can be much more difficult.

What I am writing is probably not all that surprising, and of course many of us who work at Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region and other similar organizations knew these things already. But here is the important part: it took a research study being sent to us to really take these matters seriously.

After reading this study, then a few others, we invited different partners to a series of meetings. Those groups included Muslim Social Services, Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, African Family Revival Organization, KW Counselling, Reception House, and YMCA Settlement Services. We also hosted a focus group, where we were able to hear testimony of folks who had already been through the process of being a newcomer and pursuing services from the Developmental Sector, along with those presently going through the process.

In hearing our partners’ stories, along with the stories of families from Syria, Nigeria and El Salvador, we here at Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region knew we had to do more.

Thanks to this valuable input, and the generosity of the Ontario Trillium Foundation we were able to secure funds to hire a Newcomer Resource Coach to help newcomer families navigate the world of developmental services, and additionally find a good life in their new communities.

If you’re a new Canadian and would like to have a conversation about how you can access developmental services available to all Canadians, please contact Tashi at or 519-741-0190 ext. 308.

Stay tuned for more details about our Newcomer Resource Coach.