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Prairie Beginnings: Settlement Program for Children & Families

In Spring/Summer 2016 the Faculty of Social Work developed a refugee settlement program for children and youth of Saskatchewan's Arabic-speaking refugee community. Since then, we have run the program annually and expanded its scope, by removing our emphasis on the participant's spoken language, to provide services to a diverse group of refugee children and youth. In 2019 we began to develop programming for the mothers & grandmothers of Prairie Beginnings participants, with the goal of addressing some of the unique challenges faced by refugee women in our community.

Due to COVID-19 and our efforts to maintain physical distancing, we will run a modified version the prairie beginnings program in summer 2020. Under faculty supervision, a number of social work practicum students will continue to work toward strengthening this program by engaging in research, program development and evaluation. In addition, we will develop a remote program with activities for refugee children and women, commencing in July.

Mission Statement: 

Prairie Beginnings provides support services through culturally-inclusive activities to children and families from Regina’s refugee community. With an emphasis on supporting the most recent arrivals to Canada, the program’s primary goal is to promote mental wellness and mitigate the trauma experienced by diverse refugee populations. Delivered through the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Regina, the program utilizes a strengths-based model to foster empowerment and capacity building, and enhance resiliency toward successful community integration.

The content below is from a follow-up article written for the Faculty's October 2016 newsletter

To request further information, or to express interest in volunteering, please contact us.

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As a pilot project this summer and a way to express our solidarity with the Syrian people, the Faculty of Social Work successfully delivered a settlement program for refugee children and youth from Regina’s Arabic-speaking community. This initiative was developed by Social Work faculty and staff in collaboration with the Regina Open Door Society as a means of addressing a gap in service provision, particularly for children in the 6-12 age range.

Four social work students played an active role in the implementation of the program’s vision of providing a safe space where refugee children and youth could play, interact and simply be themselves. The program also benefitted from the work of volunteers, many of whom were students from the University of Regina. The goal of this social work initiative was to provide a fun environment, to help ease the stress of resettlement that many refugee children experience. At the same time, the initiative was an opportunity for social work students to complete their mini-practicum.

The program ran every Saturday during a 6-week spring session, and a 7-week summer session. Many children attended both the spring and summer sessions. On average, there were about 27-30 children who participated in the program. Activities for children and youth included arts and crafts, movies, reading and literacy, computer games and technology, music, dance and water play.

All activities were organized by social work practicum students under the supervision of a field instructor and faculty members. Academically, this program provided the opportunity for four students in our Bachelor of Social Work program to gain practical experience in community work with refugee populations, and settlement program development and implementation. The knowledge and skills gained through this initiative was foundational to the students’ experiences of working with vulnerable populations in the future.

The impact of the volunteers who participated in the program must not be understated. The Faculty of Social Work Refugee Settlement Program relied heavily on its more than fifty volunteers. We were particularly fortunate to have a significant number of Arabic-speaking volunteers participate, most of whom are international students at the University of Regina. These volunteers brought diverse strengths to the program, and they helped tremendously with overcoming language barriers, understanding cultural norms, and facilitating activities.

This initiative received great support from the larger University community, as many faculty, staff and students contacted us to express interest in participating. In particular, we are thankful for the support we received from the Faculty of Education.

One of the challenges that limited participation in the early weeks of the program was transportation. Fortunately, we were able to secure funding and provided door-to-door bus service to participants. This really helped facilitate access to the program for a lot of the families, many of whom lived quite far from the University, and did not own vehicles. As in any activity, the challenges faced provided lessons that going forward will be considered to ensure a greater success for such an important program. Our goal is to deliver the program again in summer 2017, and we are considering the possibility of delivery in both Regina and Saskatoon. We are also considering ways to structure the program to incorporate a final practicum option for students in their last semester of the social work program.

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Please refer to our printable 2017 brochure in English or Arabic for details.

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