Rewarding work with teenaged newcomers 

Jacques Geleyn spent the summer working with asylum-seekers. He had a Community Service Certificate from Concordia and was going to volunteer at the downtown YMCA when he was offered a summer job as assistant coordinator of a Y youth program.

The Covered Garden provides community integration services for asylum-seekers and newcomers. Thanks to funding under the Canada Summer Jobs initiative, the YMCA created three summer jobs under this program: one to work with adults, a second with children, and the third, dedicated to adolescents.

Jacques’ responsibilities included coordinating activities for adolescents aged 12 to 17, and supervising a team of volunteers. He also presented educational and creative workshops and planned sport, leisure, cultural and educational activities and outings.

Jacques wanted to be there for them not as an authority figure, but as a friend. “Canada is really different from what they’re used to,” he said. “Some of them find it difficult to integrate in a culture so different from their own.”

There is a constant turnover of asylum-seekers, who remain in the program for only a month. Most do not speak English or French. Many come from Mexico, while others come from Colombia, Haiti, or Africa.

The experience helped Geleyn develop his planning skills, enhance his knowledge of the community, and gain a broader understanding of other cultures. Now he’s back in his psychology program, but he hopes to continue working with adolescents in the YMCA’s Covered Garden, either as a summer student or as a volunteer.

“This summer job has been an important experience for me,” he said. “It confirmed what I want to do for the rest of my life: to work with adolescents.”


Concordia University