Resources for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant & Newcomer Children and Youth

The following documents and associated resources have been developed with the support and advice of many community agencies across Alberta. Many of the resources have been adapted from Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth: A Toolkit for Program Coordinators. They are intended to support community-based groups and organizations that are striving to develop and deliver quality mentoring programs to children and youth who are new to Canada. The tools are based upon research and the combined expertise of those who are already doing this important work.

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The Importance of Mentoring

For years, Canada has been home to thousands of refugees, immigrants, and newcomers from around the world. Most recently, the largest influx of newcomers have been Syrian refugees displaced from conflict. As of January 29th, 2017, Canada has welcomed 40,081 Syrian refugees. This is not the first time, and sadly, it likely won’t be the last that those fleeing conflict or strife will need to find a new home.

Mentoring is the simple act of an adult or older individual spending dedicated time with a younger person. By creating a relationship based on trust and open communication, mentors help kids foster a sense of belonging, build self-confidence and learn new skills and passions. Talking and spending time with engaged adults provides children with positive experiences during periods of heightened brain development. That kind of positive mentoring can help children build a solid foundation that prepares them to adapt to the future demands of the adult world. Mentoring for refugee, immigrant & newcomer children and youth helps them succeed in school, and adjust to their new home.

Spending time with a young person may seem simple, but science tells us that healthy interactions with supportive adults boosts children’s brain development, mental health, and well-being. This is even more important in helping youth who are transitioning from a new country or culture.

It doesn’t take any special skills or accomplishments to be a mentor. If you find yourself reading this, you already have what it takes: an interest in making a difference in the life of a child.

Become a mentor and help a young person do better in school, understand their strengths, and reach for their goals. Your presence, time, support, advice, friendship and constructive role modelling can make a big difference.

We know that refugee, immigrant & newcomer children and youth are in need of unique supports and interventions. Establishing strong mentoring relationships can help a young person thrive, and in turn have a positive impact on the whole family.

Whether you are working with Syrian refugee youth who have recently arrived, or more established communities, there are universal practices and considerations outlined below that will maximize your impact.

Consider these best practices, success, and challenges as you get started, or as you rework your current program. Mentoring refugee and newcomer youth is an enriching experience, for both the mentor and participant.

Resources for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant & Newcomer Children and Youth

The following document and associated resources have been developed with the support and advice of many community agencies across Alberta. Many of the resources have been adapted from Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth: A Toolkit for Program Coordinators. They are intended to support community-based groups and organizations that are striving to develop and deliver quality mentoring programs to children and youth who are new to Canada. The tools are based upon research and the combined expertise of those who are already doing this important work.

DOWNLOAD ALL THE RESOURCES (.zip)

If you click the link above (Download all the Resources), you will receive a .zip file that includes the main document, Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant & Newcomer Children and Youth, along with six further resources also linked below.

The Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant & Newcomer Children and Youth Resource is split into 9 resources — see below for an introduction to each resource and which page they can be found in the main document.

The following document and associated resources have been developed with the support and advice of many community agencies across Alberta. Many of the resources have been adapted from Mentoring Immigrant and Refugee Youth: A Toolkit for Program Coordinators . They are intended to support community-based groups and organizations that are striving to develop and deliver quality mentoring programs to children and youth who are new to Canada. The tools are based upon research and the combined expertise of those who are already doing this important work.

Canada, and Alberta in particular, is a multicultural place. Every year, we welcome New Canadians – be they immigrants or refugees. Many New Canadians face challenges when they arrive – language barriers, gaps in their education, cultural adjustments. It is increasingly important that community groups and organizations develop programs to effectively support these members of our communities. Introducing, or in many cases formalizing, the practice of mentoring for New Canadians is an important part of addressing many of the challenges that these youth face as they grow up. To support the development of a mentoring program with newcomer and refugee children, it is important to be open and understanding – to listen, learn and adapt to meet the needs and preferences of the particular community you hope to work with. A culturally relevant approach is necessary for making a connection with youth.
These considerations frame the tools and resources on the AMP website for mentoring newcomer and refugee youth. They provide specific resources to support your work with diverse communities, supporting the development and implementation of quality mentoring programs that foster strength and resilience.

Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See Page 2)

Who is a Newcomer?

A newcomer is an immigrant or refugee who has been in Canada for a short time, usually less than 3 or 5 years. Newcomers have access to lots of services at settlement agencies, like language and immigrant help.

Who is an Immigrant?

An immigrant is someone who has moved from their country of origin (their homeland) to another country, for example, Canada, to become a citizen of that country, if they wish to do so. Just visiting a country, even to work for a few months, does not make you an immigrant. Immigrants are people who live permanently somewhere other than their homeland.

Who is a Refugee?

Refugees and people needing protection are people escaping being persecuted in their homeland. This means that if they stay or return to their homeland, they will risk being tortured, killed, suffer cruel treatment, or worse. Refugees seek protection in safe countries, such as Canada.

Who is an Undocumented Person?

An undocumented person is a newcomer who has moved from their homeland to another country like Canada to become a citizen. However, undocumented persons are different from documented immigrants because their immigration status is unknown or unofficial.

Undocumented persons are also known as: Uninsured person, Sans papier (without papers), non-status, without status.

Learn more: Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See Page 6)

Newcomer and refugee youth may be facing many challenges in addition to language and cultural adjustments. Many of these challenges stem from their home life.

To learn more: Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See Page 8)

Children and communities have much to contribute and can be great assets in helping your program be successful.

Learn more: Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (Page 10)

Whether in a formal or informal way, involving the community will help your program succeed. Some organizations choose to form an advisory board. Others reach out to people and groups at different times in the program planning and implementation. Whichever approach you choose, consider the following groups for involvement and assistance.

Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See page 12)

The plurality of ethnic traditions and cultures has come to characterize every part of the world today. But what is pluralism and how can it guide the way we work together to develop and deliver services to diverse communities? Here are some ideas to begin our thinking:

Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See page 14)

Mentors serve many roles. Within the mentoring relationship, here are some key activities and roles a mentor can offer:

Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See page 16)

Some mentees and their families will look for a mentor from their own community, or who shares a language. In order to recruit these mentors, consider these tactics:

Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (See Page 16)

Securing newcomer volunteers is the first step. Effective training and support will ensure retention. Consider the following activities:

Download the Full Resource for Mentoring Refugee, Immigrant and Newcomer Children and Youth (Page 20)

Further Resources

Here are some programs and actions that have shown to make a difference:

Participant-Driven Programs

Programs that are youth-driven and flexible, both in terms of overall scope and day-to-day activities, have received positive reviews and are seen to have the greatest impact.

Grassroots Community Programs

Members of the cultural community are in touch with the needs of the newcomers, and frequently have connections through religious organizations or otherwise. They are well equipped to offer programs quickly and effectively, and to work with you to support participation.

In-School Mentoring

Schools provide a venue, and also create a level of comfort for families. In this regard, they have an advantage in terms of providing mentoring programs; they can also dovetail with existing services and academic programs at the school.

Peer-to-Peer or Youth-to-Youth Mentoring

Schools and community groups have had success with having peer groups provide mentoring to each other, and with older youth mentoring younger youth. Mentoring is not something only to be done by adults.

Programming for the Family in One Place, at One Time

Having programming available for the whole family at one time encourages participation, creating a comfort level for parents and removing potential barriers such as baby-sitting younger siblings.

Homework Clubs

Frontier College – http://collegefrontiere.ca/getattachment/f12e1465-fb18-49c9-8d37-f40cb59c51f3/start_homework_club_organizers_workbook.aspx

Australian Foundations – http://www.communityfoundation.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Homework-Club-Resource-Kit.pdf

Frontier – https://utfrontiercollege.wordpress.com/tutor-resources/frontier-college-press/organizing-homework-club-1996/

Conversation Clubs

BBBS Peel – http://www.bbbspeel.com/en/Home/programs/MentoringProgramsforNewcomerYouth/conversationclub.aspx

Calgary Public Library – https://calgarylibrary.ca/esl-conversation-club/

LGBTQ Refugees

Emerge LGBTQ Mentorship Program – http://www.the519.org/programs/emerge-lgbtq-mentorship-program

Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA) – http://www.amssa.org/resources/quicklinks-resources/resources-to-support-lgbtq-newcomers/

General Resources

National Mentoring Resource Center – Mentoring Refugee and Immigrant Youth. A tool kit for Program Coordinators. http://www.nationalmentoringresourcecenter.org/index.php/what-works-in-mentoring/resources-for-mentoring-programs.html?id=224

National Mentoring Resource Center – Mentoring for First-Generation Immigrant and Refugee Youth http://www.nationalmentoringresourcecenter.org/images/PDF/ImmigrantRefugeeYouth_Population_Review.pdf

Ontario Mentoring Coalition – http://ontariomentoringcoalition.ca/mentoringyouthfacingbarriers/tailored-mentoring-for-youth-with-specific-needs/newcomer-youth/

Ontario Community Integration Network – http://www.cin-ric.ca/PDFs/Resources_for_Working_with_NC_Youth.pdf

Refugee Council of Australia – Australian Mentoring Programs for Refugees and Humanitarian Entrants https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/r/rpt/2005-Mentoring.pdf

Youth Mentoring Youth and Children: A CED Approach – https://ccednet-rcdec.ca/files/ccednet/pdfs/Youth_Mentoring-4_Models_Report.pdf

Programs

N.E.E.D.S. Inc. Youth Mentorship Program – http://needsinc.ca/our-programs/crime-prevention-youth-mentorship.html

Access Alliance One-On-One Support – http://accessalliance.ca/programs-services/youth-ages-13-to-24/one-on-one-support/

COSTI Immigrant Services Youth Mentoring Program – http://www.costi.org/programs/program_details.php?sid=29&pid=2&id=198

For Mentors

Mentoring Partnership of Minnesota – http://www.mpmn.org/Resources/ForMentors.aspx

MENTOR Illinois – http://www.ilmentoring.org/index.php/resources-for-mentors

Help Your Students Achieve Greater Success Through Mentorship

Mentoring makes a big difference in the lives of students, particularly newcomers and refugees.
They may be facing barriers, such as linguistic and cultural adjustments, as well as stress relating to exclusion, poverty, or separation.

Refugee students may have had their formal education interrupted, sometimes for several years at a time.

Where to begin?

Please download the following brochure as a resource to share with schools, or community agencies who have yet to develop a mentoring program.

School Trifold Refugee Immigrant Newcomer Toolkit

Homework Clubs provide extra support for youth in need, whether they’re facing language barriers, adjustments to new cities or countries, or have other challenges affecting their education. Homework clubs can also have the added benefit of developing a caring relationship between a child and an adult or older individual. By creating a relationship based on trust and open communication, mentors help kids foster a sense of belonging, build self-confidence and learn new skills and passions. Mentoring is proven to help a young person do better in school, understand their strengths, and reach for their goals. Your presence, time, support, advice, friendship and constructive role modelling can make a big difference.

Learn the steps to setting up a Homework Club for your mentoring program by downloading the following resource.

A conversation club is a group mentoring exercise. It allows newcomer and refugee youth to learn and practice English, and to learn about local culture. It also offers intercultural learning opportunities, as mentors learn about the culture and customs of participants. Conversation clubs can also have the added benefit of developing a caring relationship between a child and an adult or older individual. By creating a relationship based on trust and open communication, mentors help kids foster a sense of belonging, build self-confidence and learn new skills and passions. Mentoring is proven to help a young person do better in school, understand their strengths, and reach for their goals. Your presence, time, support, advice, friendship and constructive role modelling can make a big difference.

Learn more about setting up a Conversation Club for your mentoring program through downloading the following resource.

Mentoring a Unique or Diverse Population?

If you are working with a unique or diverse community please supplement these steps with the tools and resources included in the sections below. These additional tools have been developed to support mentoring programs with immigrant, refugee, Indigenous youth and youth in care.