AMHERST, N.S. – Making the transition to a new community, let alone a new country, can be very challenging.
To help new Canadians adjust to their new home in Cumberland County, the community’s multicultural association has put together welcome baskets that include products from local companies as well as brochures and information on area programs and services.
“We had a number of new people who have moved to Amherst and Cumberland County in recent years who have all had the same issues. They didn’t know where to get their children started in school, how to get their banking set up,” multicultural association member Lisa Emery said. “The baskets are for people who are new to Canada, not for people moving across the country or from another province, it’s for people who are moving here and are having some language or other barriers.”
Hee Young Son moved to Amherst from Korea three years ago. A member of the YReach Settlement staff, she had the advantage of being married to a Canadian with a strong support network within the community. That's not always the case and she said some new Canadians can find the whole transition process overwhelming at time, especially when they are moving to a community where there aren’t a lot of people who speak the same language or follow the same customs.
“We’ve had a lot of generous donations from companies big and small around Cumberland County. We’re very thankful for those donations,” said Son. “There are a number of smaller items as well such as cups, pens, pencils along with jams, honey and other local products.”
The baskets include information from several banks such as CIBC, RBC and Scotiabank; there’s information from CAN-U for adult learners, transportation services, 211 and other programs.
“A sense of belonging is a key ingredient to successfully integrating yourself to a new community and country,” said Son, who developed the idea. “I thought a welcome basket with an abundance of information and a little gift will help them feel welcome. It’s a great variety of things we got donated.”
A pair of baskets were handed out earlier this fall while five more were presented during a Welcome Basket Showcase in early December. Two more were handed out after that event.
Son said the reception has been very positive and Emery said people coming to the county are arriving from around the globe including India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, England, Poland, Iran and other countries.
Son’s position with the YMCA is to help new Canadians make the transition and to help overcome the barriers that may exist. Too often new Canadians only spend a short time in rural communities before going to larger centres.
“One of the things I found when I first moved here was I wanted to find someone like me, not necessarily Korean, so that’s why I created the newcomers club that has met every month, but from January to March will be meeting every week,” she said. “When I first came it didn’t feel like home, but now it does. Back then, I wished I could have had someone I could have related to. That’s what I mean about creating connections and developing a sense of belonging.”
One thing Cumberland County has going for it is how supportive and welcoming people are. She said she and her husband had just settled into their home when neighbours were coming over to introduce themselves and even brought a cake.
“It was such a welcoming feeling and with the welcome baskets I want other new Canadians to feel that,” she said. “I hope it’s a tradition we can continue.”
She said the showcase was very successful and it’s something the association would like to do periodically. She said a lot of connections were made and the children were playing together and feeling comfortable in their new environment.