Minister Sohi meets with teen girls affected by Syrian conflict

A group of immigrant teen girls affected by the conflict in Syria met with Hon. Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, on December 10, as the YWCA Edmonton wrapped up the first session of Banat al Balad, a leadership program tailored to immigrant and refugee girls.

 

“You remind me of me when I came to Canada,” Sohi told the girls. “I had no idea about Canadian culture, Canadian values and the Canadian way of life so I struggled a lot in my early years despite having a really strong family. I wish I had a program like this one that would have allowed me to be with other newcomers to talk about my feelings and have that network of friends.”

He made a point of telling them how much potential they have in their new country.

“I see in you, future councillors, future mayors, future MPs, maybe even future Prime Ministers,” he said. “There is no limit to what you can accomplish here.”

Banat al Balad is led by young women and focused on female youth. The program concentrates on the critical skills girls need for healthy development. Each topic focuses on the specific needs and experiences of girls and young women in Canada.

 

More than a dozen girls aged 15 to 19 have participated in the program, which meets once a week and is led by facilitators who speak multiple dialects of Arabic.

 

This YWCA program is part of a broader collaboration between REACH Edmonton and eight local agencies supporting Edmonton’s immigrant and refugee communities, with funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The funding is part of the $245,000 that the Ministry gave to REACH this summer to support a collaborative community response to the needs of newly-arrived Syrian refugees.

 

“REACH is proud to be continuously working towards greater collaboration among partners who want to help Edmonton’s immigrant and refugee communities, and contribute to making Edmonton a safer city for everyone,” said Jan Fox, executive director of REACH Edmonton.

 

A second session of Banat al Balad will run from January to March 2017 with a new group of young women.