Enriching lives: How the Saint John Field House is expanding newcomer services
The opening of the Saint John Field House means that newcomers in Saint John now have more options to access programming and services that support their resettlement in the community. As more newcomers arrive in New Brunswick, they’re settling in neighbourhoods outside of Millidgeville and the north end, where Newcomer Connections programs run at the Saint John Regional Y. For those who live on the east side, their proximity to the Field House could mean all the difference in a successful resettlement experience, much like the story of Shaki Rahman.
Shaki emigrated from Bangladesh to Canada in 2017. Since arriving in Saint John, Shaki has quickly progressed through English classes, found full-time employment, and feels at home in her new city.
Shaki’s journey began in 2009 with her uncle, a professor living in Saint John. He sponsored Shaki and her younger brother to move to Canada, not wanting them to be alone after their parents’ death. After two days in Canada, he brought Shaki to the YMCA to register for the language classes.
“When I came to the YMCA, I saw workers here and everyone is so welcoming, so nice and I thought … I wish I could work here,” Shaki says with a laugh.
Thanks to her education in Bangladesh, Shaki had enough English skills to move through three levels of language classes within a few short months. Her language instructor suggested she sign up for Skills Launch, a youth employability program that gives young newcomers a chance to experience the Canadian workplace and pursue different career paths.
“Skills Launch is so good, it’s a life-changing program,” Shaki says. Through Skills Launch, participants are able to pursue career options that interest them. “In my country I was volunteering teaching some children at home, so I have that background. My father was a teacher, my uncle is a professor here, so I thought OK – let’s choose child care.”
Shaki’s work placement through Skills Launch was at the Saint John Regional Y Child Care, where she was completing volunteer hours for the program. She worked as an assistant to educators in the classroom but after one month of hard work, Shaki’s supervisor decided to assign her to her own room as an educator.
“I said, ‘I don’t think I can trust myself to do this,’ and my supervisor said ‘I know you can,’ ” Shaki explains. “I was so surprised and so happy, too.”
After Shaki graduated from the Skills Launch program in February 2019, she was thrilled to be offered a full-time, permanent position at the YMCA Child Care – her wish of working at the Y had come true. But that’s not where her involvement in the YMCA ends; after her shift ends you can often find Shaki working out at the Y – she enjoys fitness classes like Group Power, Yoga and Zumba. Shaki also plans to volunteer at Newcomer Connections when she’s not hard at work. She wants to be able to help other newcomers, just as she received support after arriving in Canada.
Shaki thinks the Saint John Field House will be a great addition to the city. “It’s really good to have another section of the Y there. It’s really helpful for them – so many newcomers are coming now.”
She’s excited to get involved in new programming at the Field House. East Saint John will now have opportunities for culturally focused programs, like cooking classes in the new community kitchen, diverse sports nights, and workshops and orientation sessions.
Shaki loves her friendly coworkers, the four-year-olds she works with every day, and the city she now calls home. She says she never wants to leave Saint John, and hopes in the future to pursue her diploma in Early Childhood Education and continue to work at the YMCA.
“My first family is my uncle’s family; my second family is my Y family.”