"In my country it was easy learning about important things, and it is easy in Canada when you know what is available for you. Wthout your family, without English, the difficult first period can last 3 months or 30 years!" Participant in the project defining settlement experience.
Research shows that immigrant women rely mostly on peer supports and know of few support services such as the Community Information Centres or Outreach Family Workers. Since peer support is crucial for successful settlement, we are providing immigrant women in Healthy Lifestyles Neighbourhood Groups with training and opportunities to share what they know and opportunities to connect people in their neighbourhoods. The Social Development Centre Waterloo Region and the Focus for Ethnic Women are piloting a support program for women who wish to help their peers build connections, learn about community resources, and improve their language skills - to help make their integration happen faster and easier.
Phase I - Training for Peer Ambassadors
The project has been promoted in seven Healthy Lifestyles neighbourhood groups. Out of 40 women in the groups, 16 completed the Peer Ambassador Training.
Peer Ambassador Training includes:
* Settlement patterns and experiences
* System of supports and services in Waterloo Region
* Maps of services women rely upon
* Role of peer ambassadors
* Strengths and limitations of both peer and service supports
* Festival of Neighbourhoods, a tool for building connections
Phase II - Healthy Lifestyles Workshops
Of the sixteen women, seven entered the second phase by sharing what they had learned with their peers in Healthy Lifestyle groups: Victoria Hills, Chandler Mowat, and Erb West. They prepared presentations of the most important learning at the training and hosted discussions about the role the immigrant women could have in their communities. At the end of the discussion, the women in all the groups planned events that would help bring more families and neighbours together.
Phase III - Festival of Neighbourhoods Activities
Organizing Festival of Neighbourhoods-like activities was the way for participants to incorporate what they have learned and to build connections in their neighbourhood. Some of the activities included:
- Traditional Chinese Painting in Chandler Mowat
- Neighbourhood Party in Erb West
- Fun for All and Summer Blitz in Victoria Hills
- Neighbourhood Potluck Picnic in Sunnydale
- Neighbourhood Potluck Party in Courtland-Shelley
There were six women who completed all the phases of the project. The knowledge and connections built during during the project built their capacity to access resources and to reach out to new people in their community.
The activities were built around the idea that stronger people connections create stronger neighbourhoods. Families learned about resources such as the Festival of Neighbourhoods and the Social Development Centre's community information services. They had the chance to hear stories told by strong female figures about how Healthy Lifestyles groups came to be and how simple get togethers can be a turning point in lives of immigrant women when they are surrounded and supported by their community.
Want to join a Healthy Lifestyles group? - contact Focus for Ethnic Women