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Connections Project - Meet Omar

2015 Connections_Project_Hamilton

Big Brothers Big Sisters' Newest Program Helps Newcomer Youth with Adjustment to Canada

December 2015 - Omar speaks very little English. One month ago, he told a translator that he was overjoyed to be living in Canada, but he was also scared.

Being scared is natural to Omar. He feared for his life after his three brothers were killed. Growing up in Iraq, Omar was surrounded by violence, danger and war until his family immigrated to Hamilton last year. His transition into a new country posed several social and cultural barriers. One of Omar’s biggest challenges is his inability to fluently speak, write or read the English language.

Omar’s English as a Second Language Teacher recommended the Connections Project to Omar’s Mother. The Connections Project is one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ newest programs. It was implemented to provide newcomer youth with a mentor and friend to help with their adjustment to Canada.

“The Connections Project is like a building block to newcomers in a new country. It helps newcomer youth feel more comfortable with their new surroundings,” says Michael Boisvert, Program Coordinator. In the program, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ volunteer mentors are a role model and friend to newcomer youth, helping with their adjustment to Canada. “Connections project helps to let children like Omar forget about some of the terrible things that have happened to them, meet new friends and grow more confident,” says Boisvert. “Omar’s story helps me to really understand the impact of the program,” he adds.

Omar has been a part of Connections Project for nearly one month. Within this time Boisvert has been pleased with Omar’s progress. “I see the most change in this program in the shortest time,” says Boisvert, adding, “Children like Omar are so scared at the beginning, and so happy at the end.”

In Connections Project, mentors and mentees meet in a group setting for one hour a week. Their sessions include fun, educational activities, games and a potential for homework help or open discussion. The program gives the mentees an opportunity to practice English language skills, make new friends, learn more about Canada and most importantly — have fun.

“There is no another program that has as much of an impact on the integration of newcomer youth into our community. By offering them the opportunity to share fun, new experiences and new surroundings with other newcomer youth, children become less scared and more confident during their adjustment,” explains Boisvert.

Program diversity and expansion, such as the Connections Project, have allowed Big Brothers Big Sisters to increase their capacity to service children while catering to the needs of a changing community. Proudly, over 1,600 children received mentoring services through one of Big Brothers Big Sisters’ programs last year.

Connections Project is proudly supported by:


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We currently are incurring a long waitlist, and are in need of volunteer mentors.

  • Are you 18 years of age or older?
  • Are you interested in positively benefitting the life of a child?
  • Do you have 2-3 hours a week to dedicate to a rewarding friendship?

Click here to apply to be a mentor today!