IYC was my first experience with the community when coming to Markham from India, and for the last three years, I have volunteered so much from helping in Crafts for a Cause, to attending events, to participating in job workshops, to being a camp leader at IYC. A lot of my most fun memories have been at IYC, and I made so many good friends and connections. IYC helped me get going with my involvement in the community, and helped me out with career advice, and improved my leadership skills. Most of all, it gave me a welcoming feeling, let me meet so many friendly people, and gave me the most wonderful laughs. It feels like a family being here. These past three years have been some of my most memorable experiences, and I am grateful.
Centre an Oasis for Newcomer Youth
Raymond Ren landed in Canada with his father last August carrying four suitcases. He wanted to attend university here, but worried about his prospects since he didn't speak a word of English.
"I couldn't understand others and others couldn't understand me," the 18-year-old from China said.
Shortly after their arrival, Mr. Ren's mother joined them, however, both parents soon returned to China, leaving him to adjust to a new life alone in a Markham condominium.
"It was hard at first, but I learned how to cook from my parents before they left, so I'm OK now," the Grade 12 Unionville High School student said. Since those early days when everything about Canada was foreign, Mr. Ren has found a new "home" at the Immigrant Youth Centre, run by the Centre for Information and Community Services (CICS). For the celebration of the centre's grand opening, Mr. Ren shared laughs with some of his "family" and friends.
Asked what his university plans are now, he said, without hesitation, "I want to study math at the University of Waterloo." Angela Zeng giggled in support. Even though she is the same age as Mr. Ren and came to Canada at the same time as he did from China, the two didn't know each other. Their families became close friends after settling in Markham and through involvement with the Immigrant Youth Centre.
"I felt very sad when I first came — it was very difficult to leave my friends back home. I had to adjust to the new time zone and new climate. It was hard to sleep," said Ms Zeng, who attends Markville Secondary School. "Then I joined the Red Cross leadership program at CICS and I've made new friends here." Ms Zeng would like to study life sciences at the University of Toronto next year, she said.
Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Immigrant Youth Centre in Markham is the first facility of its kind that offers resources at no cost to newcomer youth aged 13 to 24 in the region.
Headed by program manager Janice Tsoi and a team of youth settlement workers, the Immigrant Youth Centre is a youth-led project launched in March 2009 at the CICS headquarters in Scarborough. In September, the centre opened its doors in Markham. Two months later, a series of programming was introduced to assist youth in their integration into Canadian culture and society, including language classes, assistance with school work or job search and even music and dance lessons. Our goal is to help newcomer youth settled in Canada, outgrowing from their disorientation in the new environment and integrating well into the community to become fully participating and contributing members and future leaders of our society.
Some like 17-year-old Noor Fatima are here for co-op placements. Born in Pakistan, Ms Fatima immigrated to Canada with her family at age 10. She attends Middlefield Collegiate Institute and hopes to become a social worker or immigration officer someday. "Coming to Canada has been a life-changing experience," she said.