From India, to Dubai, to Calgary, to Toronto. My husband and I are very familiar with being strangers in a strange land, but for us, moving to Canada was the biggest adjustment. It took us time to settle in, to find jobs, a place to live, and most of all to make friends.
I remember feeling overwhelmed initially with the newness of it all. But over the years my husband and I acclimated to this country we now call home, and what has helped us along is our love of being outdoors and active.
Today I feel a sense of responsibility to help our neighbours with the initial adjustment to their life as new Canadians. Welcoming others with a sense of warmth and inclusivity for which Canada is so well known feels right.
If you have newcomers in your community, why not reach out to help them? Introduce them to your love of being active, being outdoors, and having fun. Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Invite your new neighbours for a walk around the community
Whether it’s an invitation to a stroller-fit class for young moms or a familiarization walk around the neighbourhood, this is a great opportunity to get to know your new neighbours and introduce them to the Canadian outdoors. Have your kids introduce their kids to the best climbing tree, the best stream for skipping stones, and the best parks and playgrounds. Show them the safe places to play street hockey, hopscotch, and wall ball.
2. Demystify city programs
A great resource and relatively low-cost, city programs across the country can be a novel concept for many new Canadians. And they fill up quickly. If you don’t know what’s going on, it’s easy to miss out. Years ago I was glad to come across a notice in a local supermarket for a mom and tot program. If it hadn’t been for this notice I may not have even known about the local community centre. And what a loss that would have been for me when I was a newbie. Let your new neighbour know about city programs, the deadlines, and how to sign up. Walk them through the process so they can get involved.
3. Get a group together to play
No need to host an elaborate cocktail party. Instead, organize a neighbourhood game of soccer or baseball. This is a great way for the newcomers to meet, play, and mingle with other neighbours in a low pressure environment. If you feel like cutting up some fruit and veggies to bring along as a group snack, go for it!
4. Help your new friends connect with sporting equipment
Not having the right gear can be an obstacle for families and it can take some know-how to find sports equipment on a budget. Suggest the basics that they need to start having fun. Think of your new-to-Canada neighbours when you have extras or hand-me-downs to pass on.
5. Share your love of moving on weekends or after school
Invite them on a scavenger hunt, obstacle course, or just over to play in the backyard. Adults can play along with the kids or let them have unstructured time while the grownups get to know each other. Having some fun activities in your back pocket can help if the kids run out of ideas.
Play is a quintessential part of being Canadian. It brings us together and defines us in so many ways. When we help a family become an active part of our community, we give them a welcome gift that will last longer than cookies or a casserole. We’re helping to set them up to be active for life.