When you’re a child new to America, it can be daunting and frightening. For many children from refugee families, it can be their first time in a new country, community, and school. And here, in a strange new place, they must make new friends, often even learn a new language, and find a way to feel at home again.
The YMCA believes every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential, and that is why we are committed to reaching out to refugee families in our community. As part of our New American Welcome Center, we regularly partner with organizations that provide immigration resources and help families acclimate to America.
In one partnership, started over five years ago by the Y’s Diversity, Inclusion and Global Innovation (DIG) committee, we teamed up with Aurora Public Schools and the Aurora Welcome Center to welcome Aurora refugee families to the district. As parents met with school leaders for an Aurora Public Schools Orientation Event last fall, members of the DIG Committee engaged over 75 of their children in games, sports, and activities.
These kids ranged in age from 4 to 18, and their families represented over 20 countries and more than 15 languages, including Somali, Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic and Swahili. Still, what they all shared was the right as children to play and have fun. And, the Y was there to create a welcoming and safe atmosphere, making it possible for all kids to participant at their own comfort levels in everything from art and hula hooping, to soccer and basketball. A crowd favorite was jumping rope, and the kids got to see a performance by a jump rope team from Littleton, Colorado, called the CLAIM JUMPERS.
This work was part of the Y’s efforts to build bridges among Aurora’s diverse populations in order to strengthen the greater Denver Metro community. While it may have been a day of play in the gym, it was moreover an opportunity for kids to share about their home countries, learn from each other, and just be kids again.
The YMCA of Metro Denver is proud to partner with local organizations like Aurora Public School to help families and children and to engage with newcomer, immigrant, and refugee communities. We will continue to engage local organizations to help make our community a place where newcomers and immigrants can thrive and flourish.
Join us in welcoming all to the YMCA. And learn more about other YMCA outreach, such as our work with the Littleton Immigration Resource Center.
Special thanks to the following people for making this a successful event:
- The Claim Jumpers, including team leaders, Hailey Roberts and Maya Alvarez
- Joe Sprague, DIG Committee Chair
- Ben Sprague, past Board Member, Community Branch YMCA
- Brian Jones, YMCA, Experience Director Schlessman YMCA
- Marni Warren, DIG Committee Member
- Luke Warren, Regis student volunteer
- Sam Church, Program Director
- Debbie Ford, DIG Committee Staff
- Silvia Tamminen, Coordinator of the Welcome Center for Aurora Public Schools