Meet our Teams: Settlement

Emma Hickey

It’s not easy for us, as Canadians, to fully understand what it is like for a newcomer family moving to a new country. Can you imagine how it feels to be in a new country where you don’t speak the same language? Where the customs are different and you have no emotional or social support? Can you imagine being somewhere that everything you see, smell, hear, touch and taste is different than what you’re used to?

You had a house in your home country … but it was made of stone – not wood. You had a car in your home country … but the roads were hard, packed earth – not asphalt. You lived in a busy city without a single tree … but Saint John is bursting with nature, with birds, deer and trees as old and tall as some buildings.

Whether you are three or 93, every experience you have in your new home country seems strange – not wrong, just strange. Who can you talk to? Who will be there to calm you down? Who can gently reassure you that everything will be OK? Yes, it’s strange … but it will be OK.

The Settlement Counsellors at Y Newcomer Connections are here to support newcomers to Saint John as they walk the maze of information about their new community and government services. Our team of counsellors support newcomers by providing needs assessments and developing unique settlement plans for each family, and make referrals to help newcomers access the services offered in this city.

Meet our Teams: Settlement

Our Settlement Team is comprise of (back row, from left) Hussain Alabdulaziz, settlement counsellor Team Lead; Kay Kanyandula, family enhancement and crisis worker and settlement counsellor; Tracey Hogg, data entry clerk; Maryam Naser, settlement counsellor mentor; and Zaheeb Nasir, settlement counsellor. (Front row, from left) Cybele Sabitry, settlement counsellor; and Hanan Knox, settlement counsellor.

Our Settlement Counsellors offer newcomers a helping hand with some of life’s “emergencies.” This may include: helping to file paperwork to replace their Permanent Resident cards after a purse was lost or stolen; going to a high school and meeting with the principal regarding a newcomer’s child who  wants to add extra courses to his load to earn extra credit; going to the hospital to help fill out paperwork after the birth of a new baby; or helping a family enrol their special needs child in school for the very first time in their life.

Most importantly, Settlement Counsellors establish a relationship with their newcomer clients that is based on trust, honesty, respect and hope. And while these counsellors are available to assist newcomers with the major decisions in life (how to find a job, where to look for a family doctor, how to file income taxes), it is our volunteers who help with the day-to-day experiences our newcomer friends face every day.

The Community Guide volunteer position provides an opportunity for newcomers to give back to the YMCA, and support their neighbours in the community. A Community Guide helps newcomers navigate key community services and empowers them toward independence. Community Guides help newcomer families learn how to use the Saint John Transit system, and travel to appointments in a timely manner; they help newcomers learn the systems at hospitals, clinics, and community services, and teach them how to independently book future appointments.

For many newcomer families, having a Community Guide who was also once a newcomer to Saint John can give them a sense of relief and encouragement that they will adjust to their new life in this city; that they will learn and understand all of the customs, directions, and services that seem so daunting upon their initial arrival. Often, newcomers are so grateful for the help they received upon settling in Saint John and want to take on a role to give  back what they received. By volunteering their time as a Community Guide, newcomers can not only support the work of our Settlement Counsellor team, but they will also provide hope and encouragement for the new arrivals that follow them.