Youth to Youth
A Program of JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) Toronto2005-11-10 18:06:12
“Youth to Youth is our innovative outreach program for newcomer teens, ages 14-18," said Janis Roth, Executive Director of JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Services) Toronto. "It's a way for teens who have immigrated to the GTA to meet other kids their own ages in the Jewish community."
Students (Canadian-born and recent immigrants) from Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (CHAT) and local public high schools call the newcomers, welcoming them to Toronto and inviting them to attend a Youth to Youth program.
Feedback from both the immigrants and the callers has been overwhelmingly positive. One teen revealed how deeply grateful she is for the contact, noting that it was her very first telephone call since she came to Canada.
The welcoming teens feel strongly about the contacts as well. “I made a call to a girl yesterday. The conversation went really well, and we ended up talking for two hours." The volunteer caller continued “At first…she was always questioning me, but … after about 15 minutes…she started to open up more...She told me 'I guess if you managed to live in Canada and be happy, then I can do it too.' I [told her] that this is her chance to do something different with her life, to see the world from a different perspective while living in a North American culture. She really liked that and I think it gave her a reason to try.”
The teens meet twice a month as an informal group, sharing in positive activities including leadership and training, community service and social gatherings. “At the first meeting, the Canadian kids taught the newcomers how to talk like Canadian teens,” said Roth. “They spoke among themselves and it wasn’t in Russian or Spanish or Hebrew or even English. It was ‘teenspeak’ that broke the ice and got them to share their own stories and develop friendships.”
Roth noted that 28 teens currently enrolled in the program are happy to be contributing in a meaningful way. “In addition to getting together for fun activities, the Youth to Youth teens have volunteered with Ve’ahavta, the National Council of Jewish Women's Passover Food Drive and UJA Federation’s Walk With Israel and will be participating in the General Assembly (GA),” said Roth.
Organizers of the program are always looking for ways to evaluate the program in terms of integrating newcomers. An example of the effectiveness of the initiative happened this year when a CHAT student, who had moved to the GTA only two years ago, volunteered with the group to welcome new immigrants teens.
JIAS Toronto’s Youth to Youth program, which was launched with a United Way Newcomer grant, is now in its second successful year with financial support from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.
For more information, contact (416) 630-6481 x 28 or email email@example.com.