In most cases, you grow up learning your language and culture from your parents, family members, friends and community. You are used to a certain climate, infrastructure, food, and way of life. But, the next thing you know, you are in another country, surrounded by people you do not know; in a culture very different from your own with people speaking an entirely different language(s). It may be because you fled your country because of war or maybe because your parents were searching for new opportunities for their children. No matter how you got here, we know it’s different and it can be an uphill battle to adjust to new surroundings. This is the reality for thousands of immigrant and newcomer children and youth every year. Access to resources and support are so vital to being able to adjust and find success.

Newcomer and immigrant children & youth are at risk for stress related to exclusion, poverty and separation. Immigrant children & youth may also be at-risk for having problems adjusting, having traumatic experiences, being disconnected from education for them and their parents, facing discrimination, intergenerational conflict and combating immigration policy challenges.

22% of the kids that BGCBigs serves are newcomers or immigrants. Having seen the challenges and speaking with our children, families and other stakeholders, it became very clear that we needed specific programming for this group of youth in order to meet them where they are at and do so in the best way possible. We know that these youth need help learning English/French and Canadian culture and accessing resources including skills to become job ready and then providing access to job networks. We set out to create programming that does just that.

Knowing how important this work is, we went to our long-term partner, Canadian Western Bank (CWB), who stepped up to the plate and committed to donating $150,000 over the next three years targeted to this work. With the funding provided by CWB, we were to have a Program Development Coach, Sentsetsa Pilane, who works directly with this segment of youth every single day. Our goal is to match newly arrived children with culturally sensitive in-school mentors through one-on-one mentoring or group mentoring, and provide children and youth the resources they need after school to be successfully in their academic, recreational and social development.

“Every penny and every dollar donated or invested to support newcomer and immigrant children and youth, is a dollar invested in the future of Canada as they are one of Canada’s recognizable growth points. They are resilient, hopeful, willing and ready to learn and every effort to help them integrate and optimize their diverse creative potential is a step in enriching our communities.” – Sentsetsa Pilane, Program Development/Newcomer Coach

For the past several years, CWB has been supporting BGCBigs in a multitude of ways, including providing funding through their GIC campaign, supporting our Golf Tournament and Lobster Lovers fundraisers and other program funding. They have also been active volunteers by participating in our ‘Days of Caring’ volunteer program. When we looked to find a partner to help with this initiative, it felt like a natural fit.

We asked Lacey Jansen, CWB Community Investment Advisor, about the ‘why’ behind supporting BGCBigs. “We both look to create lasting impacts on the youth in our city,” says Jansen. “CWB’s commitment to bettering our communities and helping kids succeed is a huge driver behind why we give. By assisting BGCBigs, we’re working together to ensure these incredible kids get acclimated in their new environment so they may reach their full potential and succeed.”

“As our newcomer and immigrant families continue to grow, we are honored to walk alongside our new neighbours by bringing caring adult mentors into their lives to support them in this new journey and by providing after school  programming and supports in neighbourhoods across Edmonton. We are so grateful to Canadian Western Bank for being a champion in supporting our diverse community with their belief that inclusion is essential for all citizens.  The support from CWB has already made a huge impact and we look forward to continuing this important work together.”- Liz O’Neill, Executive Director

We would like to extend our gratitude to CWB for their commitment to creating opportunities for growth and success for our newcomer and immigrant youth and for creating real impact by supporting this inclusive programming.

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