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A Whole New World

January 2011

Abeer Fatoohi“It was very cold,” Abeer Fatoohi, 19, says when describing her fi rst day in Canada. “We expected it to be, but you don’t really know it ’till you’re here.” She and her family immigrated to Canada from Iraq in January 2010. “We could not think of a better place than Canada.”

Abeer is a grade 12 student, a math and physics wiz, and has a budding interest in her school’s volleyball, soccer and environmental clubs. She’s also participating in the YMCA’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development (NYLD) program, which focuses on integration, settlement, skills-building, volunteerism and community involvement. It’s helped Abeer learn more about herself and her place in Canada.

During the summer, NYLD introduced her to football at the Rogers Centre; canoeing, archery and kayaking at YMCA Camp Pine Crest; and the beauty of the Toronto Islands. Since joining, Abeer’s made many new friends, knows more popular places to visit, and feels more confi dent about herself and fi tting in. “They make things easy for you,” she points out when mentioning the NYLD staff. “You feel like somebody’s got your back.” Other NYLD activities allowed her to clock volunteer hours for school, which was, “pretty cool!”

Abeer’s family fi rst learned about the YMCA when they came for English assessment testing. “The YMCA helps. It’s the best word to describe it.” The YMCA connected her parents with convenient LINC (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) classes. When it came to school, YMCA workshops helped Abeer deal with the education system in Ontario. “Almost everything is different.”

One of her most memorable moments in NYLD, Abeer giggles, was when “We joined the soccer team and did a tournament.” The team made it to the fi nal day of competition, and even though they didn’t win, “We were the happiest losers there!” The YMCA nurtures a spirit of teamwork, she explains. “It was just about coming together, working together and doing our best.”

So, what’s next? “University,” Abeer says. “The more I’m living (here), the more I’m learning new things. So where do I see myself?” She answers with a grin, “I don’t know...but I hope it’s a good place.”

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