Edmonton has experienced an influx of African immigrant and refugee families over the last decade. These families face significant challenges of transition and integration into our community and culture. Needs are particularly diverse across African families, given the breadth cultures they represent (i.e. over 60 distinct countries and cultures) and diverse life experiences (i.e. from refugee with literacy challenges, to persons experiencing trauma from life in a violent or war-torn country, to employees or professional whose work or credentials are not recognized in Canada.) Families also have different compositions than our Canadian context. They are often larger (e.g. parents and 7 children). Single parents are often older siblings or an extended family member. As a result, families can require multiple supports to ensure that children remain healthy, safe and positively engaged in community.
Research shows that providing mentoring, after school programming and summer programming for children and youth can serve as a preventative safeguard for immigrant children. Such programs support positive transitions to school and communities, promote healthy life choices, and reinforce positive relationships with families and friends. TransCanada has, through its funding of ethno-cultural mentoring at the Africa Centre and across other programs by Boys and Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton (BGCBigs), chosen to invest in these positive outcomes for Edmonton’s African families.
The Focus for TransCanada’s Funding Dollars
The target group for TransCanada’s funding of African ethno-cultural supports has been African children and youth aged 5-18 years old in Edmonton’s African immigrant and refugee community. TransCanada dollars have supported the following programs:
- After school supports in homework and recreational programs at the Africa Centre
- BGCBigs Community Clubs in Edmonton neighbourhoods where African families reside
- Summer programming
- In School Mentoring for African children
Our experience at the Africa Centre and other ethno-cultural after-school or summer programming has demonstrated what research suggests. African parents and their children, through surveys and direct feedback, consistently report that children are building self-esteem and self- confidence, as well as knowledge, skills and abilities through mentoring and program activities. Like all parents, African parents communicate that they are seeking trusted places in community where their children enjoy and remain engaged in positive developmental skill-building activities. In addition to witnessing patterns of regular attendance by children and families, volunteers and program coordinators note that children and parents often share stories about a child’s improvement in school subjects and school participation. Staff and volunteers also observe children building numerous relationships with peers, volunteers, staff, youth leaders as well as other parents and families.
TransCanada Corporation continues their support of these programs and the important outcomes being achieved. We are extremely grateful and proud to be partners in building brighter futures for families.