Newcomer finds community through YMCA Achievement Program

I met John (name has been changed) about 2 weeks after he arrived here from Eritrea, a little known country in the horn of Africa. It did not take long for me to conclude that he would be an excellent fit for the YMCA Achievement Program (YMAP)

I can only begin to imagine what it would feel like as a teenage boy, in a brand new high school, in a totally different country, knowing almost nobody. I try to think of what my priorities might be; making a couple of friends, learning the language, and simply surviving! When asked the question, ‘Why do you want to be in YMAP?’, John told me that he realizes this program will help provide him with the tools to succeed in Canada, to find a job in the future, and to attend university. Of course, he also would like to make friends and improve his English, but John is really focusing on the future and how YMAP will benefit him.

Since the first week of programs, John has stood out amongst the group as somebody who consistently participates and voices his opinion, while respecting his fellow participants. He often approaches me asking for a further challenge beyond what we are doing, and asking for advice while he actively looks for a part-time job.

One of the highlights of my entire experience working with YMAP occurred while talking to John at our Kickoff Celebration. He approached me to say thank you for the service we are providing, told me that he had been feeling so lonely in Canada and wanted to go home more than anything, until he joined YMAP. John had just met some fellow Eritreans from another quadrant during the Kickoff, and was feeling particularly happy while getting to know them. He told me that he now feels like he has a true community and family in Canada, and feels much more positive about being here. To know that YMAP has made such a difference in his life reaffirmed that all of the work we do is truly worth it. I can’t wait to see what this coming year will bring for him, and will continue to be inspired by his attitude and motivation.