Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, Ontario- Toronto

A new start in a new country is a way to set new norms. Families that come to Christie Refugee Welcome Centre are often overwhelmed by all the new things they have to deal with and the physical/emotional and social needs of their children are sometimes overlooked. The process of displacement is a difficult one with language barriers, new social norms and processes, new schools and friends, and social isolation while they are still recovering from displacement, trauma and loss.

The After School Fitness Program will support a positive outcome to the significant changes they are experiencing by providing an opportunity for the children to engage in physical activities with other children in a similar situation. The program will help the 130 children that stay at Centre each year transition to a new society by giving them the common denominator among all children’s desires – fun through physical activity. 

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The Confidence to Try #FEELGOODFRIDAY Lukas is a 10-year-old Raptors fan who plays basketball with his local chapter of Special Olympics, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was afraid to join a team. Lukas is an outgoing kid who likes to make friends and has always been very active. But his early experiences in organized physical activity were not positive. One of his biggest challenges with autism is struggling to follow directions in large groups. He was often told he was doing things wrong and even that he would embarrass the team. “These negative comments deflated his confidence, and he became afraid to try new things,” explained his mom Lisa. When he was eight, Lukas took part in the Sports of All Sorts program at the Geneva Centre for Autism. The supportive environment in the Sports of All Sorts program, funded by a GoodLife Kids grant, was a real game-changer for him. Constant encouragement and positive reinforcement gave Lukas a safe space to explore new activities without a fear of being judged. With one-on-one support he played basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf. “We’re so glad to make physical activity a regular part of Lukas’ life and we’ve found ways for him to continue practicing at home,” said Lisa. “We bought a tennis net for the backyard, and now that he’s not afraid, he loves to go to glow-in-the-dark mini-putt with his dad!” As Lukas turned around on the basketball court to wave to his mom, he gave her two big thumbs up and her eyes welled up with tears of joy. “Watching him enjoy himself, I’m overwhelmed with happiness and pride,” she shared. “He has talents! But most of all, he has regained a belief in himself – that he CAN do it – and that is so powerful.”

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