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How Raptors games and Bieber concerts are cultivating connections for young newcomers through shared cultural experiences

August 27, 2022

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

Cultural and community-building experiences can create a sense of belonging and provide life-long memories for young Canadian immigrants and their families.
It takes a village for immigrant families to feel welcomed in a new country. When newcomers arrive in Canada, they immediately meet several challenging processes: the housing system, immigration paperwork, language barriers, finding reliable employment and more. It’s a system that is often hard to navigate, especially with added pressures of supporting a family during an ongoing pandemic.

For immigrants, basic needs must be met in order to have some sense of physical security when relocating. But what about emotional security? The need for community? Finding a sense of belonging?

According to the 2016 census, close to 2.2 million children under the age of 15 were listed as immigrants. We all know that teenagerhood is challenging enough, let alone experiencing these years in a new country and new culture. According to a 2021 Stats Can study, immigrants report loneliness far more than those who are Canadian-born. Loneliness and isolation has been shown to increase stress levels, negatively impact physical health, lead to poor self-esteem, and increase the risk of depression and anxiety.

“It’s challenging for newcomers to adjust to life in Canada – they deal with financial troubles, language barriers, and often feelings of isolation and depression. Giving newcomer youth the chance to engage in cultural activities assists in vital social development and feeling like they really belong to a new community,” says Razia Dawood, Assistant Manager, Client Support Services at COSTI.

Finding a sense of community and belonging is imperative in building the foundations of social and cultural security. Providing exceptional cultural experiences through events like art shows, sports games and concerts help ease this hard transition and can especially benefit children when it comes to making new friends and forging peer-to-peer connections.

“I’ve seen the way being offered tickets to events truly brightens newcomers’ days. It allows them to forget about the troubles they may be experiencing for a few hours,” Dawood added,  “Recently, we sent a newcomer family of eight to the Science Centre. It was their first time going, and they loved how interesting, engaging, educational and welcoming it was.”

At Kids Up Front Toronto, we’ve been lucky to bear witness to the positive impact cultural experiences have on young newcomers through our More Than a Ticket program. Our mandate is to distribute free tickets to kids and their families to attend some of the city’s most incredible arts, cultural and sporting events including Raptors games, Justin Bieber concerts, Cirque du Soleil and more. We’ve seen first hand how these experiences boost kids’ confidence and comfortability in connecting with classmates.

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