There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that organisations and businesses have had to get creative and innovative in their service delivery in order to meet the needs of their clients. 

In mid-March, we closed our physical offices and staff began working from home. Our bustling office accommodating 27 staff and on average 25 newcomers every hour for appointments and groups was silent. Over those first two weeks, staff were busy making arrangements and connecting with our dedicated team of volunteers in order to transition social and language groups so vital to newcomer learning and sense of community to alternate platforms. Zoom and social media have become an important part of each of our days.

Now, with 10 groups happening online each week, we’re actually seeing higher attendance at some virtual groups (compared to in-person) , and some new faces in others. These groups are providing important avenues for newcomers in Peterborough and Northumberland to combat social isolation at a time when connection is more important than ever.

And these virtual groups and services are finding new and creative ways to connect, engage, and welcome. These groups are helping newcomers know they belong here.

Here are some heartwarming examples of how this is happening, week after week:

Building Community in the Women’s Group

Our Women’s Group meets weekly on Thursdays on Zoom for conversation, connection, and activities including cooking demonstrations and crafts.

Last week, one of the participants, a creative newcomer, led the group through a painting session to paint a tree. In the lead-up to Thursday’s group, facilitators Fabiola Contreras Carrasco and Tarkeia Elnaihom along with NCC staff Anne Elliot purchased the painting supplies and hand-delivered the items to each participant’s home while physically distancing.

The home deliveries were a welcome surprise for the newcomer women who were able to see familiar faces ahead of the virtual meet-up. Providing the supplies to the women ensured that all 14 of them could follow together in order to create their own interpretation of the facilitator’s tree example. It was lovely to see the colourful and varied interpretations!

Supporting Expression, Mental Health and Wellbeing through Youth Group Live Sessions

Twice a week, Youth Group Facilitator Lubna Sadek and Settlement Worker in Schools Steve Ross host a live session on Instagram to connect with newcomer youth. Through cooking demonstrations, games, crafts, guest speakers, and feature segments about Life on a Farm in Canada, youth are kept engaged, keeping social isolation at bay.

These Live sessions also provide a space for newcomer youth to share their ideas and stories. For example, Ibrahim, a teenager from Syria, joined Steve on the Live session on May 20 to discuss how he uses social media to share his story and perspective on Home and Belonging.

Expanding Opportunities for Recreation & Discovery through Bicycle Donations

In the Fall of 2019, 18 newcomer youth benefited from bike donations from B!ke and several other community groups and generous donors. Now, B!ke has once again stepped up, donating 14 bikes this week to youth, with more on the way.

As the weather warms up, these youth are being provided opportunities to enhanced recreation and connection to Peterborough. Our thanks to B!ke supporters and volunteers for their generosity!