CPN includes more than 200 local businesses, agencies and institutions who are broadening their capacity to engage with diverse communities and build relationships. Each edition we highlight one of our CPN members and the work they do to build welcoming communities.
West Shore Parks and Recreation (WSPR) has been a member of the CPN since 2013. Looking to broaden its connections to diverse communities in the the western communities, WSPR has been involved in many key CPN activities since joining.
Bobbi Neal, Coordinator for WSPR, and is an active member of the CPN Advisory Council. Recently, Bobbi and the WSPR have been instrumental in supporting the resettlement of Syrian Refugee families through WSPR’s program and services.
Syrian refugees began arriving in Greater Victoria in February 2016. During the first few weeks, many of the families were temporarily housed in a hotel located in the Langford area. While waiting to be resettled into permanent housing, there was a need for activities and outings for the families in order to minimize social isolation and encourage newcomers to start to make connections in the community.
The staff at WSPR set out to organize tours to both welcome and introduce the families to the facilities, programs and services at nearby Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre (JDF)- as well as other WSPR facilities. Newcomers were picked up by bus and taken on-site to join in outdoor activities that included walks along the JDF’s user-friendly trails, tours of the facilities and venues, and experiencing the beautiful green spaces. Newcomers were shown the pool and visited the very popular ice hockey arena. For most Syrian newcomers, this was a first time experience to see figure skaters and hockey players gliding on real ice! Newcomers were invited onto the ice as the hockey players offered their sticks for them to hold and to try passing a puck.
These guided tours were a key first step to help connect and build relationships between the WSPR, the community and the new refugees. To encourage the long term involvement of newcomers in recreation, the WSPR also offers the Leisure Involvement for Everyone (L.I.F.E.) program. L.I.F.E. makes available low cost recreation activities to newcomers who, otherwise, could not afford to have their children (or parents) skate, swim or attend a recreation class. The L.I.F.E. program is available at all Greater Victoria’s recreational facilities. To date, more than 60 newcomer refugees have registered for this vital program.
West Short Parks and Recreation is an example of a CPN member that understands the value of looking for innovative ways to reach out and build connections across cultures using sport and recreation.
“West Shore Parks & Recreation is an innovative organization delivering diverse programs and services to promote active, healthy lifestyles to all of the residents to the West Shore. It is important that we are representative of our growing and changing community. In the recent GVLIP study newcomers found recreational activities to be the most helpful for successful integration in Greater Victoria. As a member of the CPN, West Shore Parks is learning, partnering and celebrating with our multicultural community as part of the richness of our work and the region.” Bobbi Neal, WSPR Community Development Manager