Hundreds of Syrians have arrived here in London however the majority of them are still in hotels.
Jacquie Rumiel the Vice President of Newcomer and Community Services, at the Youth Men’s Club of America (YMCA), stated that the refugees arrival identified to her and the “Y” staff, there was a new need in the community that needed to be addressed. They wanted to help and wondered what they could do to make a difference to help the refugees to feel welcomed in to the London community?
Rumiel explains, they could only imagine how challenging a relocation, to a new country and town would be for these families.
Rumiel says that once they learned, that “sixty-percent of the incoming Syrian Refugees were under the age of fifteen”. Rumiel and her staff thought, “They’ve got to be climbing the walls at the hotels, we have pools, we have gymnasiums, there must be something we can do to help”.
Rumiel in addition to other YMCA representatives decided to offer free memberships to the Syrian refugee families. She explains that the YMCA feels that free memberships will assist Syrians in their integration into the London community, and provide them with some healthy, active, recreation.
As a result in mid February of 2016, the YMCA community centre staff with great excitement set the plan in motion, by offering free memberships; to Syrians and other refugees to enjoy all the services the centre has to offer.
In order to make their transition into the community, a smooth one, Rumiel adds the YMCA will be providing Arabic speakers, and interpreters from the London Mosque, every Wednesday, from 6-9pm. Rumiel feels it is important that the various centre etiquettes, and program information is instructed in their own language.
The community centre representatives suggests that their Saturday programming for youth and children as well as their “Teen Nights” on Friday’s, will provide the Syrian youngsters an opportunity to meet Canadian youth. Hopefully as a result of doing so, they will be able to form long lasting friendships. Therefore, allowing the London community itself to become an integral part of their integration process.
If you are interested in assisting Syrian refugees with their integration, Rumiel expresses that “A smile and a hello goes a long way, and you might even make a new friend.”