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For 108 years, the YMCA of Northern Alberta has been a place for individuals and families to come together to connect and feel a sense of belonging. Our Y also brings communities together. We are joining other Northern Alberta communities to mobilize and welcome refugees from Syria and other areas of the world where people are fleeing unrest and conflict. You may be interested to know that when the Syrian families, couples and individuals arrive in Canada, they will be Permanent Residents.

This designation means that they have all the same rights and access to services as Canadian Citizens, with the exception that they cannot yet vote, carry a Canadian Passport or call themselves Canadian Citizens.

Our goal at YMCA of Northern Alberta is to support newcomers to our country as they complete their journey to full Canadian Citizenship. It is in this spirit that we engage with our community partners and citizens to welcome and help “pave the way” for newly arriving Syrians and other refugees. To this end, the YMCA wants to raise awareness about the programs and services we offer, which support settlement and integration efforts in the early weeks after arriving in Canada and over the long-term as people move towards citizenship.

Child Care

Our YMCA provides a total of 57 Early Learning and Out of School Care Programs in the Grande Prairie, Wood Buffalo and Edmonton Regions. Families with parents who will be/are working or going to school full-time will need child care and may qualify for the Provincial Child Care Subsidy. YMCA Child Care staff will support families in applying for both Child Care and the Provincial Subsidy. For information about the location and contacts for our Child Care Early Learning and Out of School Care Services please click here.

Access to Health, Fitness, Aquatic and Sports

Once new Syrian-Canadian families are settled in their communities, they may want to access recreation, sports, aquatics and fitness opportunities for themselves and their children. Our Y can help them add to the quality of their life as well as providing safe developmental opportunities for children and youth.

YMCA Opportunity Fund

1 in every 5 individuals in our YMCA access the Opportunity Fund subsidy for programs and services. The Opportunity Fund is supported through our Annual Campaign and provides over $1,000,000 in subsidy for Health, Fitness and Aquatics programming, Child Care services and access to no and low-cost services in our Community and Housing programs. YMCA of Northern Alberta will provide information about our Opportunity Fund to any organization or individual in the community who wants to support Syrian families to apply for and access the Opportunity Fund. For more information on the Opportunity Fund, please click here.

Canadian Tire Jump Start

Twice a year, in January and in July, our YMCA Edmonton and Grande Prairie Regions administer the Canadian Tire Jump Start Program. This program supports children living in low income families to access sports programs and lessons such as soccer, skating, basketball, swimming and baseball. Children and Youth in the new Syrian families who qualify, can apply for funding for sports activities. We will provide information to any organization or individual in the community who wants to support Syrian families to apply for and access the Canadian Tire Jump Start Fund. Call 780-429-9622 for more information.

Housing and Community Programming Spaces

The Melcor YMCA Affordable Housing facility provides quality, secure housing for families. YMCA of Northern Alberta will work closely with Catholic Social Services, the local Lead Agency for the Edmonton Syrian Refugee Initiative, to identify and place qualifying families into our 2 bedroom family units. Our Family Resource Centre (meeting rooms, kitchen and child-minding space) and Bill Rees YMCA space can be made available as needed to other community agencies who will deliver orientation sessions and integration services, such as Conversation Cafes and other activities. For more information, please contact Jackie McGowan at 780-426-9258 or email jmcgowan@northernalberta.ymca.ca.

Immigrant Settlement Services

YMCA of Northern Alberta, Wood Buffalo Region in Fort McMurray, delivers Immigrant Settlement Services and Employment Link services. Our specialized settlement service staff in the Wood Buffalo Region want to ensure that every new Syrian Refugee has the supports they need in place when they arrive. Currently, the changing economic, employment and housing conditions can make settlement in this Region more challenging today than it has been in the past. Anyone who is supporting Syrian Refugees to move to Fort McMurray is asked to make direct contact with the local Wood Buffalo services when making referrals to the Region. Our Wood Buffalo Region contact is Ramazan Nassery at 780-588-5036 or email at rnassery@northernalberta.ymca.ca.

If you are asking the question – ‘How can I help?’ Here are some of your options:

Q. How can I make a cash donation to support the YMCA’s settlement and integration work?
A. There are many opportunities to give to the YMCA. See your donation options by clicking here.

Q. Can I donate furniture and household items?
A. Yes! Call Edmonton Emergency Relief Center at 780-428-4422 or visit them online at www.eerss.org. In Wood Buffalo, call the Salvation Army Thrift Store at 780-791-9903.

Q. I want to know how the Syrian Refugee Initiative is going. Where can I get up-to-date information?
A. You have a few options. In Edmonton, you can log on to the City of Edmonton Web page or call 211. For a Provincial perspective on what’s happening in different communities, or to see what other organizations are involved in this important work, visit the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (AAISA) at www.aaisa.ca.

Q. How can I volunteer my time and skills?
A. Many organizations have volunteer roles you can fulfill. Call Volunteer Alberta at 780-482-3300, or toll free at 1-877-915-6336 to find out more about how you can get involved, or go online to www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca.