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YMCA Immigrant Services: Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers – #ITSTARTS

Pictured above are YMCA Immigrant Services staff sharing what #ITSTARTS means to them. From left to right, (top row) Farishta Jasar, Fakhra Naseem, Sandra Ruttan, Sarah Stea, (bottom row) Laura Hurst and Mei Yun Liu.

The YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka is a proud partner of the County of Simcoe’s #ITSTARTS campaign, running every year during the month of March. #ITSTARTS is a public awareness campaign designed to take proactive steps towards addressing racism and discrimination in Simcoe County. #ITSTARTS works to promote a unified community that encourages collective action against racism and discrimination. An important part of this work for the YMCA is creating a safe, vibrant and connected community where everyone belongs.

When it comes to building an inclusive community where everyone feels welcomed, YMCA Immigrant Services stands at the forefront, addressing racism and discrimination through its proactive initiatives and programs. These services not only help immigrants find their footing in a new environment but also cultivate a culture of understanding and empathy within the broader community.

Fostering Inclusion with Language and Orientation

Integration is a two-way street. YMCA Immigrant Services understands this well, offering comprehensive English language training and settlement services designed to welcome newcomers into the local community. Enhanced language skills serve as the bedrock of effective communication, crucial for participation in all facets of our shared society – from cultural to economic activities.

Orientation sessions serve as a beacon for immigrants, illuminating the intricacies of Ontario’s culture and systems. Such sessions are instrumental in equipping newcomers with the tools needed for active engagement, which naturally curtails stereotypes and misconceptions that lead to prejudice.

Empowerment through Knowledge

Armed with the right information, anyone can become a force against discrimination. YMCA Immigrant Services doesn’t just offer a helping hand; it empowers individuals with knowledge, orientation, information, and referral services. These resources are the keys to unlocking healthcare, education, housing, and employment — ensuring that those new to Canada can stand firm, know their rights, and confidently tackle any issues they face in their new community.

Connection and Community Through Engagement

No one should face a new life alone. With programs like the Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) and International Student Connect, the YMCA fosters significant social connections. These programs cultivate robust relationships between newcomers and long-standing residents, encouraging integration and understanding through community interaction — a catalyst for embracing diversity and dismantling the walls of discrimination.

Tackling Systemic Challenges Head-On

Barriers to employment often act as silent gatekeepers, reinforcing systemic discrimination. YMCA Immigrant Services employs various strategies, such as labour market information and support services, to mitigate such challenges. From resume writing to interview strategies, they champion newcomers to navigate employment landscapes with confidence, advocating for equitable participation in the workforce.

Promoting Cultural Competence

It’s not just about coexisting; it’s about thriving together. The YMCA’s commitment to cultural competence creates an environment rich with mutual respect and understanding. By educating the community, disrupting entrenched biases, and advocating for inclusive practices, the YMCA leads the way toward a brighter, more inclusive future for everyone.


Through our efforts toward inclusivity and equality, YMCA Immigrant Services empowers individuals, transforms communities, and shapes a society where diversity is treasured. Join us in continuing to support these vital services that are not just preparing individuals for today, but are paving the way for a more tolerant and accepting tomorrow.

For more information about YMCA Immigrant Services programs, please visit us at: These services are available to newcomers at no cost.

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