Empowering newcomer youth is crucial as they face a myriad of challenges throughout the migration process which greatly impacts the academic, emotional, and behavioral difficulties they experience. Their journey is riddled with unique stressors such as family separation, harsh living conditions, language barriers, cultural adjustments, racism, and discrimination. These challenges can lead to mental health issues, higher stress levels and may potentially lead to risk behaviours such as dropping out of school and substance use. It is evident that providing appropriate psychosocial support and empowerment during this critical developmental period is critical.
Fostering positive relationships, particularly in school and community settings is key to empowering newcomer youth. Research indicates that positive and supportive relationships offer a multitude of benefits, including enhanced academic engagement, a sense of belonging, emotional support, and feelings of safety. Cultivating strong social networks is a valuable psychosocial intervention for adolescents as they can play a pivotal role in aiding their integration and overall well-being.
Engaging newcomer youth in feel-good activities based on their own experiences can be another powerful way to empower them, such as physical activities to reduce stress. When these activities are offered in stress-free environments, they become a source of enjoyment and contribute to high self-esteem and the development of essential social skills. These activities hold promise for youth with limited language proficiency, as they can serve as a bridge to connect with others and foster a sense of belonging.
At a local after-school program designed to provide educational support to newcomers, I, Christina Nguyen, had the privilege of witnessing the transformative experience of working with a group of determined and resilient newcomer youth. Among them was Sara*, a young girl who had recently arrived in Canada with her family. Sara faced numerous challenges, including language barriers and the trauma of leaving her home behind.
However, regularly attending the program furthered her gradual growth and empowerment. Supported by patient and compassionate mentors, Sara began to develop her language skills and built meaningful connections with her peers. Engaging in the feel-good activities offered at the program, she gained a newfound sense of belonging and confidence.
Over time, her academic performance improved and she became an active advocate for the rights and well-being of other newcomer children. Witnessing Sara’s journey from a timid newcomer to a confident and empowered youth highlighted the immense impact that after-school programs can have in fostering growth, resilience, and empowerment among newcomer children.
Despite the importance of education, language barriers often hinder newcomer youth from fully integrating into public schools in Canada. Ensuring that newcomer youth have equal access to quality education and appropriate language support is also vital for their empowerment and successful integration into society.
Truly empowering newcomer youth requires us to address their unique psychosocial needs and provide tailored support. This can be achieved by creating safe and supportive environments, offering feel-good activities that promote physical and emotional well-being and advocating for equal access to quality education. By recognizing and investing in the empowerment of newcomer youth, we can help them overcome the intersectional challenges they face and pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society. Let us embrace the potential of these young individuals and provide them with the opportunities they deserve to thrive and contribute positively to their communities.
Christina Nguyen is dedicated to empowering women, children and youth around the world. She is currently working at World Vision Canada as Program Officer with the Research & Evidence Building Unit. Christina is also a member of the CanWaCH Youth Working Group. Click here to connect with Christina on LinkedIn.
Saron Teferra is a self-proclaimed Global citizen and an advocate for Global Change. As an intern at the World Vision Canada Research & Evidence Building Unit and an incoming MSc in Global Health student at McMaster University, she’s currently discovering how she can uniquely advocate for maternal and child health. Click here to connect with Saron on LinkedIn.
Dahlia Hathout is passionate about equity and giving people an equal chance at living their life to the fullest. She is currently completing her masters degree in Global Health at McMaster University. Dahlia also works for the school board as an elementary school teacher. Click here to connect with Dahlia on LinkedIn.